Taking Internationalism Seriously: Why International Criminal Law Matters
Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law, ed. Jens David Ohlin, Forthcoming
19 Pages Posted: 4 May 2016 Last revised: 25 Aug 2019
Date Written: May 3, 2016
It is often argued that international criminal law (ICL) is designed to overcome deficiencies in national legal systems. When the state is incapable or unwilling to punish, it must be replaced by a reliable and impartial agent. Under this view, ICL is a pragmatic solution to the partiality and/or ineffectiveness of national legal systems.
This Article rejects such a view; ICL is not a pragmatic solution to the partiality, lack of accountability and/or ineffectiveness of national legal systems. Nor is ICL international by coincidence or due to contingent features such as the greater competence of international tribunals, their better accountability or impartiality. Rather, the goods of international criminal law and the values it promotes can only be provided by international entities. We call this view ‘robust internationalism’. According to robust internationalism, the international character of the tribunals tasked with applying international criminal law is necessary to successfully fulfill their mission. The article further argues that robust internationalism is implicitly recognized by the founders of ICL and is also reflected in some of its doctrines. Failing to account for it is therefore incongruous with the realities of ICL as practiced today.
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