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Toward a Criminology of International Crime

31 Pages Posted: 27 May 2003  

Mark A. Drumbl

Washington and Lee University - School of Law

Date Written: May 2003


The criminal adjudication of those who perpetrate egregious human rights violations has gained normative currency among international lawyers and rights activists. This norm has encouraged the construction of a variety of international legal institutions, specifically tribunals and courts. This Article tracks the emergence of this norm and suggests that, at its root, it derives from a general extension of Western municipal criminal law, and Anglo-American common-law methodologies in particular, to the international context. This triggers two interrelated concerns: is this extension (1) theoretically sustainable and (2) operationally effective for adjudicating wrongdoing in all cases of mass violence? This presentation posits that important differences between municipal crime and international crime suggest that the rationalities of the former cannot so easily be proffered for the latter. Moreover, the justice that may result from this extension may be externalized from the very communities it is intended to serve. In the end, a call is made for international lawyers to structure an independent criminology for the adjudication of international crimes, and to consider the relevance of communitarian and cross-cultural approaches in this regard. This call is informed by, and in turn reflects, the experiences of international criminal law in adjudicating perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

Suggested Citation

Drumbl, Mark A., Toward a Criminology of International Crime (May 2003). Washington & Lee Public Law Research Paper No. 03-07. Available at SSRN: or

Mark Drumbl (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Sydney Lewis Hall
Lexington, VA 24450
United States
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