The International Criminal Court and the Prevention of Atrocities: Predicting the Court's Impact

83 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2008 Last revised: 27 May 2009

See all articles by James F. Alexander

James F. Alexander

United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Date Written: August 7, 2008

Abstract

Supporters of the International Criminal Court have claimed that the Court is well-suited to preventing the occurrence of humanitarian atrocities. They often argue that the Court will, for instance, have a general deterrent effect and serve to reinforce ethical norms against genocide and war crimes. Critics, on the other hand, contend that the Court will fail to prevent atrocities and may even sometimes aggravate the conditions that lead to them.

Neither side of the debate has mustered sufficient useful empirical support for its position. Moreover, it is unlikely that scholars will, in the near term, produce evidence credible enough to actually inform countries' decisions about how to relate to the Court. The Court has a number of historically novel characteristics and a short track record. Any rigorous attempt to calculate the Court's expected preventive impact is stymied by a number of "wild card" variables, any one of which might have an unforeseeably large effect.

In light of such difficulties, persistent arguments about this subject reveal more about commentators' commitments to internationalism or sovereigntism than they reveal about the Court. Prevention discourse has so far generally served merely as a proxy for broader policy commitments.

Keywords: international criminal court, icc, deterrence, empirical, genocide, war crimes, darfur, uganda, international tribunal, international court, atrocities, complementarity, secret ambition

Suggested Citation

Alexander, James F., The International Criminal Court and the Prevention of Atrocities: Predicting the Court's Impact (August 7, 2008). Villanova Law Review, Vol. 54, 2008/09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1211603

James F. Alexander (Contact Author)

United States District Court for the Northern District of California ( email )

San Francisco, CA
United States

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