How Serious are International Crimes? The Gravity Problem in International Criminal Law
38 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2012 Last revised: 26 Aug 2021
Date Written: 2012
International criminal law was born out of the Holocaust – the systematic extermination of millions of people by a government attempting to annihilate a race. It was the gravity of those crimes that provided the theoretical and political justifications for the first international criminal trials at Nuremberg. Yet today, the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor is considering situations involving as few as six killings and an international tribunal has been established to address the assassination of a single political leader. This Article explains how the ambiguity of international criminal law’s foundational concept of gravity has facilitated this expansion. It exposes the consequences of expansion for state sovereignty and individual rights, and suggests a solution that moves beyond ambiguous gravity to interrogate the interests at stake in decisions about international criminal adjudication.
Keywords: international criminal law, international criminal court, selection, discretion, expressive
JEL Classification: K14, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation