A Rawlsian Approach to International Criminal Justice and the International Criminal Court

28 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2010 Last revised: 11 Sep 2020

See all articles by Leila N. Sadat

Leila N. Sadat

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: July 30, 2010


Traditionally, the United States has adopted a foreign policy that refuses to ratify the International Criminal Court treaty. This lecture explores the moral and legal responsibilities that the U.S. has in preventing and punishing mass atrocities across the globe. It argues that not only would American support of the ICC reinforce our deep faith in the rule of law, it is also a moral imperative to endorse this international institution. This lecture suggests that Americans have special talents to bring to this endeavor, as well as a collective responsibility to recognize and remember our shared humanity and to help improve the lot of those who are less fortunate. Drawing inspiration from the great American legal philosopher John Rawls, the author suggests that America’s moral obligations should arise not just from national self-interest, but should also produce the greatest payoff for the least advantaged among us. From this original position, as Rawls calls it, rules that promote social equality are the most desirable as they protect everyone. This lecture begins with the birth of international criminal law after the great wars of the last Century, and briefly discusses efforts to build a system of international criminal justice. Finally, the author concludes with why the United States should not only support, but also one day lead, the new International Criminal Court, and the world, in ending impunity for the commission of crimes against humanity.

Keywords: International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Law, International Criminal Justice, International Law, International Legal Regimes, International Humanitarian Law, U.S. Foreign Policy, Rule of Law, Crimes Against Humanity, Genocide, War Crimes, Mass Atrocities, Terrorism, Moral Responsib

Suggested Citation

Sadat, Leila N., A Rawlsian Approach to International Criminal Justice and the International Criminal Court (July 30, 2010). Tulane Journal of International & Comparative Law, Vol. 19.1, 2010, Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-07-01, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1651191

Leila N. Sadat (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-935-6411 (Phone)
314-935-5356 (Fax)

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