Can the International Criminal Court Deter Atrocity?

54 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2015 Last revised: 8 Mar 2016

See all articles by Hyeran Jo

Hyeran Jo

Texas A&M University - Department of Political Science

Beth A. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: December 18, 2014


Whether and how violence can be controlled to spare innocent lives is a central issue in international relations. The most ambitious effort to date has been the International Criminal Court (ICC), designed to enhance security and safety by preventing and deterring war crimes. A key question facing the young ICC is whether or not it can deter perpetrators and reduce intentional violence against civilians in civil wars. We offer the first systematic assessment of the deterrent effects of the ICC for both state and non-state actors. We argue that the ICC can potentially deter through both prosecution and social deterrence. While no institution can deter all actors, we argue that the ICC can deter some governments and those rebel groups that seek legitimacy. We find support for this conditional impact of the ICC cross-nationally. Our work has implications for the study of international institutions and international relations, and supports the violence-reducing role of pursuing justice in international affairs.

Keywords: International Criminal Court (ICC), international criminal justice, deterrence, peace, insurgent groups, civil war, war crimes

Suggested Citation

Jo, Hyeran and Simmons, Beth A., Can the International Criminal Court Deter Atrocity? (December 18, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Hyeran Jo

Texas A&M University - Department of Political Science ( email )

College Station, TX 77843-4353
United States

Beth A. Simmons (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
7817990076 (Phone)

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