Developments in the Law - International Criminal Law (Pt. 2): The Promises of International Prosecution

27 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2009

See all articles by Justin Levitt

Justin Levitt

Loyola Law School Los Angeles

Date Written: May 1, 2001


The wave of accountability is gathering strength. At no point in the last fifty years has so much international attention been focused on human wrongs: by global media, by nongovernmental organizations, and by the organs of national and international law. One means of holding individuals accountable for these wrongs - nternational criminal prosecution - has become particularly popular of late. The institutions currently commanding the most attention for ongoing international prosecutions are the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. With an eye to designing the institutions of the future, this paper examines how well these vehicles for international prosecution achieve their purported goals. The judges, prosecutors, and politicians affiliated with these tribunals state many goals for prosecution but may ultimately promise too much. The paper finds that prosecution - the familiar domestic solution to crime - may be an imperfect mechanism to achieve many of the objectives they propose, and inflated expectations for what international tribunals can accomplish may distract attention and divert resources from other worthy endeavors. It recommends that those who wish to address effectively violations of international humanitarian law examine more rigorously the realistic goals of prosecution and to seek a closer fit between their chosen means and their stated ends.

Keywords: international prosecution, prosecution, rationale, ICTY, ICTR, international criminal law, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Rwanda, Hague, ICC

Suggested Citation

Levitt, Justin, Developments in the Law - International Criminal Law (Pt. 2): The Promises of International Prosecution (May 1, 2001). Harvard Law Review, Vol. 114, No. 7, p. 1957, 2001, Available at SSRN:

Justin Levitt (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

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