The International Criminal Court

From a troubled past, what future for international justice?

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The Rome Statute established the International Criminal Court (ICC) with an independent Prosecutor and a robust and comprehensive mandate to end impunity for the worst crimes. When dozens of states ratified the Rome Statute much more quickly than anticipated, hopes were high that the Court would make a significant contribution to ending impunity. But now, after a decade of operation, the Court finds itself facing criticism from all sides.

Those working to resolve conflicts complain the Court’s investigations and indictments of warlords—though legally valid—obstruct or undermine peace negotiations. For some, the Security Council’s demand that the Court investigate war crimes in Libya and Darfur, but not elsewhere, has politicized the pursuit of international justice; and this pursuit, many allege, is too heavily focused on Africa, the origin of all of those who have been indicted.

Moreover, after more than ten years, the Prosecutor has brought only 21 cases (involving 28 defendants); only one of these cases has definitively concluded (several are under appeal, and in several more the defendants are not in custody, so the trial cannot begin). And the hope that the Court’s foundation would spur national courts to punish war criminals (to avoid the ICC intervening), has proved illusory in most cases.

In the face of ongoing atrocities in so many countries, that continue to shock the conscience of humanity, it seems beyond doubt that the world needs an International Criminal Court. But can this “utopian” project succeed in an increasingly divided world, where politics, not law, still guides the great powers and the institutions they control?

 

Ukraine may need to look beyond the ICC for justice

By: Quincy Cloet
Español

While many Ukranians place their hopes in the ICC to end impunity, improving the local judiciary could be a more effective development.

In Afghanistan, the ICC abandons the field

By: Param-Preet Singh
Español

In giving undue weight to politics and practicalities in their decision to abandon war crimes investigations in Afghanistan, the ICC judges have set a dangerous ...

The Gbagbo acquittal and the battle for the ICC’s legitimacy

By: Mark Kersten
Español | Français

The acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo by the ICC is seen by many as a blow to the Court’s legitimacy – but legitimacy is a measure of expectations and these vary widely ...

Leaders, exile, and the dilemmas of international justice

By: Daniel Krcmaric
Español | Français

The advance of international justice means that the “golden parachute” of exile is no longer an easy option for abusive rulers. The bad news is that this may be ...

Why an anti-ICC narrative may help Kenyan leaders win votes

By: Geoff Dancy

Anti-ICC narratives resonate with a crucial minority of Kenyan citizens, but not with victims of political violence.

Looking deeper to understand African governments’ opposition to the ICC

By: Ayodele Akenroye

African governments are withdrawing from the ICC with valid criticisms—but what can be done to make the Court less imbalanced?

“Quit before they get hit”: withdrawals from the ICC are an indicator of the Court’s success

By: Chris Dolan

Are presidents who seek to withdraw from the ICC in denial about a rare instance of achieved gender equality?

The complex reality beyond the trial of Dominic Ongwen

By: Sarah Kihika Kasande & Virginie Ladisch

Dominic Ongwen faces trial at the ICC for crimes of which he was also a victim—forcing us to reevaluate dichotomies of guilt and innocence.

The ICC needs to ally with victims

By: Reed Brody
Français

To survive the current crisis, the ICC must recruit its most persuasive allies—the victims of atrocity crimes themselves.

A string of departures from the ICC is ringing alarm bells

By: James A. Goldston

Three African states have pulled out of the ICC with other departures in the works, putting ICC legitimacy in crisis.

ICC will investigate environmental destruction as well as war crimes

By: Richard J. Rogers 
Español

The ICC is now prioritizing crimes involving environmental destruction and land grabbing. How will this change economic development?

New Katanga trial shows DRC’s potential to try complex international crimes

By: Paul Seils & Myriam Raymond-Jetté 

A DRC warlord convicted by the ICC will now also face prosecution by national courts in the DRC—an enormously welcome step.

Rethinking what ICC success means at the Bemba Trial

By: Valerie Arnould
Français

When measuring ICC success, we need to examine the local impact and not just the international effects.

Colombia’s constrained peace process: how courts alter peace-making

By: Sandra Borda & Courtney Hillebrecht & Alexandra Huneeus
Español

The Colombia case shows international courts do impact local peace-making, but in ways more subtle and nuanced than commonly claimed.

Lessons from Kenya: unpacking the ICC’s deterrent effect

By: Yvonne M. Dutton  & Tessa Alleblas

Although recent empirical work suggests that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has a deterrent effect, Kenya’s experience requires a deeper look.

Running the numbers on ICC deterrence: when does it actually work?

By: Hyeran Jo & Beth A. Simmons
Español

Systematic assessments reveal that the ICC can deter intentional civilian killing, but only under the right conditions.

Côte d’Ivoire: The International Criminal Court with its back against the wall

By: Eric-Aimé Semien
Français

Four years after the ICC's intervention in Ivory Coast, opinions are still divided regarding its impact

Still falling short—the ICC’s capacity crisis

By: Elizabeth Evenson & Jonathan O’Donohue 

The ICC’s proposed expansion still falls well short of meeting the significant demands on the court.

The key to ICC success: widening the reach of international justice

By: James A. Goldston
Español | Français

Technical legal arguments are insufficient to address growing disenchantment with the ICC. More must be done to extend the reach of international justice to the ...

ICC success depends on its impact locally

By: Elizabeth Evenson
Français

Delivering justice for victims is the raison d’etre of the ICC. But making justice count for victims requires much more than fair trials in a Hague courtroom.

Law and politics at the International Criminal Court

By: Benson Chinedu Olugbuo

The ICC should be above politics, but some of the rules found in the Rome Statute make that difficult.

Elevate the law in fight against atrocities

By: Kip Hale 
Español

No one would argue the law should be subservient to politics when confronting domestic criminality, so why should this be the case for international crimes?

Is the relationship of the ICC and R2P truly “win-win”?

By: Ruben Reike
Français | العربية

Evidence from Syria and Libya suggests that linkages between the ICC and R2P are not always win-win.

ICC action and the domestic effects of transnational criminality

By: Valentina Azarov
العربية

Noisy discussions in the Israeli/Palestinian context have obscured how the ICC’s role may impact Israel’s relations with other states, especially in Europe.

At the ICC, there is no deterrence without resources

By: Mariana Rodríguez-Pareja  & Salvador Herencia-Carrasco
Español

To deter atrocities, the ICC requires more diplomatic support, financial resources and logistical assistance from the Security Council.

Reframing the justice debate in Colombia

By: Paul Seils
Español

The debate about whether or not—or how—to punish the crimes committed in Colombia’s long civil war should focus instead on the objectives punishment might achieve.

To prevent atrocities, count on politics first, law later

By: Jack Snyder & Leslie Vinjamuri
Español | Français

Recent studies pointing to the global deterrent effect of the ICC and international law in reducing atrocities are highly speculative.

The International Criminal Court at risk

By: Elizabeth Evenson & Jonathan O’Donohue 
Español | Français

With all-too-limited resources, the ICC is falling behind in the fight against impunity. Unless drastic measures are taken, it may never catch up.

Palestine’s accession to the ICC may strengthen peace-first approach

By: Leslie Vinjamuri

While civil society pushes a rights-first agenda in Palestine, resistance towards Palestine’s ICC membership suggests that governments may not embrace this approach.

Small steps forward? International pressure and accountability for atrocities in Sri Lanka

By: Kate Cronin-Furman
Español | Français

In countries like Sri Lanka – not party to the ICC – international pressure plays an important role in keeping a focus on the issue of accountability for mass atrocities.

The Ongwen trial at the ICC: tough questions on child soldiers

By: Mark Drumbl
Español | العربية

LRA commander and former child soldier Dominic Ongwen’s forthcoming trial at the ICC risks obscuring the complex question of how to achieve justice when a victim ...

The ICC in Libya – justice delayed and denied

By: Thomas Ebbs & Elham Saudi
العربية

The ICC has issued only 3 indictments in Libya, and no new ones since 2011 – even amidst growing violence. New approaches are needed to make the Court’s mandate ...

The ICC and negotiated peace: reflections from Colombia

By: Rodrigo Uprimny & Nelson Camilo Sanchez
Español | Français

The Colombian case shows the need for flexibility in balancing the duty to prosecute international crimes with the duty to negotiate an end to the civil war.

The ICC’s deterrent impact – what the evidence shows

By: Geoff Dancy & Bridget Marchesi & Florencia Montal & Kathryn Sikkink
Español | Français

Despite increased criticism against the International Criminal Court, new evidence suggests that the Court may be having a real deterrent impact.

The ICC and beyond: tipping the scales of international justice

By: Ottilia Anna Maunganidze

International Criminal Court developments in 2014 have certainly been important, but we must also look to key events in regional and national institutions that ...

Throwing justice under the bus is not the way to go

By: Richard Dicker
Français

Past experience suggests warnings that international criminal trials impede peace efforts are overblown. The ICC prosecutor mustn’t politicize her mandate by paying ...

ICC – threat or opportunity for Israel-Palestine?

By: Jessica Montell
العربية | עברית

Palestinian accession to the ICC could provide an impetus for Israel to resolve the issue of settlements in the political arena before it reaches a legal adjudication.

Justice denied? The ICC’s record in the DRC

By: Pascal Kambale
Français

The ICC has pursued the "small fish" in the DRC, letting those most responsible for the worst crimes off the hook.

The ‘interests of justice’ require challenging impunity

By: Dan Saxon

The ICC may consider the local context, but no policy or legal decision that permits impunity for gross human rights abuse can satisfy the interests of justice.

The politics of impunity little impacted by the ICC

By: Sarah Nouwen
Español

The intervention of the ICC in some countries has many effects, but little impact on promoting real accountability – and at times working against that goal.

‘Sovereignty’ no defence against ICC action in Sudan

By: Kamal Elgizouli
Español | العربية

Respect for ‘sovereignty’ is no defence against ICC action in Sudan, as the government claims. International standards, many that Sudan signed, make clear a state’s ...

Intolerance of impunity does not make ICC an enemy of peace

By: Paul Seils
العربية

Demanding accountability for war crimes does make the job of peace mediators more difficult, but so be it – an ICC investigation cannot be bargained away.

The International Criminal Court in Africa: a failed experiment?

By: Mwangi S. Kimenyi

Africa can benefit greatly from an International Criminal Court that is credible, fair, competent and independent - the current Court fails on all counts.

The surprising impact of the Rome Statute in India

By: Usha Ramanathan
हिन्दी

Though India refuses to join the ICC, the Rome Statute has proved very useful in pushing for law reform that would put an end to decades of impunity for state complicity ...

The ICC mustn’t give up in Kenya

By: Njonjo Mue
Kiswahili

While the ICC has encountered serious challenges in Kenya, the Court has an important role to play in strengthening Kenyan rule of law and holding elites to account.

The ICC and its impact: more known unknowns

By: Mark Kersten
Français | Español

When it comes to the ICC’s impact on peace processes, we actually know very little, which may be because we are asking the wrong questions. It’s time to create ...

Does the ICC advance the interests of justice?

By: Priscilla Hayner
Français | Español

What exactly are the “interests of justice” in the context of the ICC? And should the ICC prosecutor take conflict resolution into account, or do the interests ...

The ICC – breach in the dyke, or high water mark?

By: David Petrasek
Français

The International Criminal Court has failed to live up to expectations that it would mark the end of impunity. Beset by controversy, and its continued relevance ...

Introducing this week's theme: The International Criminal Court - from a troubled past, what future for International Justice?

By: David Petrasek & Archana Pandya

The Rome Statute established the ICC with an independent Prosecutor and a robust and comprehensive mandate to end impunity for the worst crimes. But now, after ...

Beyond deterrence: the ICC effect in the DRC

By: Michael Broache
Français

When does the ICC have a preventive effect? Evidence from DRC shows that it may not be the logic of deterrence that works best to prevent atrocities.