The New Impunity: Border Violence as Crime

50 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2020

See all articles by Itamar Mann

Itamar Mann

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 3, 2020


As the violence of borders has increased since the beginning of the century, advocates have started to employ the language of anti-impunity. This new discourse aims to frame border violence as a crime, often as a mass atrocity. This article is the first to identify and critically assess this type of response. It offers a comparative multi-regional analysis to assess the turn to criminal law as it has figured in attempts to enforce the rights of refugees and migrants. After defining the anti-impunity project, the article analyzes anti-impunity in the context of migration to Australia, Europe, and United States. It then proceeds to evaluate this trend in light of recent literature, which has been critical of anti-impunity and “the turn to criminal law” in human rights. Critics of anti-impunity have argued, in the context of a broad range of human rights campaigns, that the criminal law vocabulary diverts attention from underlying structural issues, including economic inequality. This article presents a defense of the criminal law framing of border violence, as one instrument within a broader toolbox of strategic litigation, and of trans-formative political action. I argue the atrocity framing, common to contemporary progressive movements around the world, is an attempt to employ criminal law to counter violence rooted in global inequality.

Suggested Citation

Mann, Itamar, The New Impunity: Border Violence as Crime (March 3, 2020). University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, Vol. 42, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Itamar Mann (Contact Author)

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905

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