Big Fish, Small Ponds: International Crimes in National Courts

22 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2016 Last revised: 4 Oct 2016

See all articles by Elizabeth Ludwin King

Elizabeth Ludwin King

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: 2015


The principle of complementarity in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court anticipates that perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity will be tried in domestic courts unless there is no state with jurisdiction willing or able to do so. This Article examines the situation where a state might be willing to engage in meaningful local justice but temporarily lacks the capability to do so due to the effects of the conflict. It argues that where the state submits a detailed proposal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) outlining the steps necessary to gain or regain the ability to prosecute those most responsible for the atrocities within two years, it should be allowed time to do so. The capacity building that occurs during this time is vital to promoting and ensuring stability throughout the region and beyond, and it will allow the Court to focus its efforts and resources on those cases for which there is no other forum.

Keywords: international criminal law, transitional justice, war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, international criminal court

Suggested Citation

Ludwin King, Elizabeth, Big Fish, Small Ponds: International Crimes in National Courts (2015). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 90, 2015, U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-36, Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Ludwin King (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

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Denver, CO 80208
United States
919-428-7460 (Phone)

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