Beyond Ratification: Predicting State Compliance with ICC Treaty Obligations
39 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2017
Date Written: March 29, 2017
Following the South African executive’s failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in June 2015, the issue of state noncompliance with politically-costly legal obligations has come to the fore yet again. Scholars of international law and politics leave crucial research questions unanswered: Why do states ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)? And, more importantly, how likely are their governments to genuinely comply with ICC norms and rulings when requested? This paper employs an original methodology to explore the aforementioned questions, combining a survey of the diplomats posted to the UN Headquarters in NYC with thirty-seven structured interviews. The study results show that state reasons for ratification strongly correlate with the expectation that state authorities will eventually comply with ICC treaty obligations. Put otherwise, diplomats see the (in)sincerity of state commitment to the Rome Statute of the ICC, and to international criminal law (ICL) more broadly, as a reliable predictor of future state compliance with the legal obligations envisaged therein. Three major conclusions can be drawn from this study. First, it stresses the importance of distinguishing between the moment of ratification and that of actual obligation. This analytical distinction, alongside the supporting empirical evidence, severely challenges the scholarly understanding that treaty ratification is itself a useful proxy for state compliance. Second, it problematizes the lawyerly assumption that state motives do not matter. All in all, that the ratification of the Rome Statute carries the same legal obligations for all state parties is not tantamount to say that all state parties are equally willing to meet those obligations. Third, it debunks the theoretical premise unpinning the African Union (AU)’s rhetoric on the ICC’s alleged neocolonial agenda.
Keywords: International Criminal Court, ICC, International Criminal Law, ICL, United Nations, UN, treaty compliance, international cooperation, judicial assistance, African Union, AU, public perceptions, survey methods
JEL Classification: H56, K14, K33, L31, L38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation