International Criminal Tribunal Backlash

Forthcoming in Heller, Mégret, Nouwen, Ohlin, Robinson (eds), Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law (OUP, 2019)

22 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2018

See all articles by Henry Lovat

Henry Lovat

School of Law, University of Glasgow

Date Written: September 21, 2018


The post-Cold War establishment of a series of international criminal tribunals stands as a signal achievement in the recent history of international law. Over time, however, the enthusiasm and optimism that accompanied the establishment of these courts has waned, with tribunals facing fading confidence and, in some cases, backlash from important constituencies. The present chapter provides an overview of historical and more recent examples of opposition to international criminal tribunals, before critically considering recent literature on tribunal backlash and proposing a working definition of this phenomenon. Drawing on the recent pluralist turn in International Relations theory, it then identifies a set of potential drivers/inhibitors of backlash against international criminal tribunals, providing a theoretical taxonomy enabling structured comparison of the dynamics of backlash in the contexts of permanent (the International Criminal Court), ad hoc (the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia), and hybrid (the Special Tribunal for Lebanon) tribunals. Concluding observations compare the three sets of experiences and identify paths for future research.

Keywords: international criminal law, international criminal tribunals, international adjudication, backlash, resistance, IL/IR, South Africa, International Criminal Court, Serbia, ICTY, Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Suggested Citation

Lovat, Henry, International Criminal Tribunal Backlash (September 21, 2018). Forthcoming in Heller, Mégret, Nouwen, Ohlin, Robinson (eds), Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law (OUP, 2019), Available at SSRN:

Henry Lovat (Contact Author)

School of Law, University of Glasgow ( email )

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