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Towards a Unique Theory of International Criminal Sentencing

Jens David Ohlin

Cornell University - School of Law

September 11, 2008


International criminal law currently lacks a robust procedure for sentencing convicted defendants. Legal scholars have already critiqued the sentencing procedures at the ad hoc tribunals, and the Rome Statute does little more than refer to the gravity of the offense and the individual circumstances of the criminal. No procedures are in place to guide judges in exercising their discretion in a matter that is arguably the most central aspect of international criminal law - punishment. This paper argues that the deficiency of sentencing procedures stems from a more fundamental theoretical deficiency - the lack of a unique theory of punishment for international crimes, specific to criminals responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Many of the familiar theories of punishment in the municipal context - rehabilitation, deterrence, and the like - are ill-suited for the international context. Consequently, the procedural vortex in sentencing can only be filled once a sui generis theory of punishment is adopted by international criminal law that gives appropriate weight to retributive considerations. The paper concludes by suggesting the following procedural changes: return the sentencing phase in international trials, create an international sentencing commission, and draft non-binding international sentencing guidelines.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: rehabilitation, retribution, retributive, retributivism, deterrence, punishment, genocide, ICTY, ICTR, ICC, sentencing guidelines

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Date posted: September 15, 2008 ; Last revised: September 17, 2009

Suggested Citation

Ohlin, Jens David, Towards a Unique Theory of International Criminal Sentencing (September 11, 2008). INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL PROCEDURE: TOWARDS A COHERENT BODY OF LAW, G. Sluiter & S. Vasiliev, eds., 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1266702

Contact Information

Jens David Ohlin (Contact Author)
Cornell University - School of Law ( email )
218 Myron Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
(607) 255-0479 (Phone)
(607) 255-7193 (Fax)
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