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How Serious are International Crimes? The Gravity Problem in International Criminal Law

38 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2012 Last revised: 4 Oct 2013

Margaret M. deGuzman

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

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

deGuzman, Margaret M., How Serious are International Crimes? The Gravity Problem in International Criminal Law (2012). 51 Colum. J. Transnat'l L.18; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2014987 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2014987

Margaret M. DeGuzman (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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