Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law

Cambridge University Press, New York, 2007

Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2007-14

39 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2007

See all articles by Mark Drumbl

Mark Drumbl

Washington and Lee University - School of Law


In "Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law," Mark Drumbl rethinks how perpetrators of atrocity crimes should be punished. After first reviewing the sentencing practices of courts and tribunals that censure genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, he concludes that these practices fall short of the goals that international criminal law ascribes to punishment, in particular retribution and deterrence. This raises the question whether international prosecutorial and correctional preferences are as effective as we hope. Drumbl argues that the pursuit of accountability for extraordinary atrocity crimes should not uncritically adopt the methods and assumptions of ordinary liberal criminal law. He calls for fresh thinking to confront the collective nature of mass atrocity and the disturbing reality that individual membership in group-based killings is often not maladaptive or deviant behavior but, rather, adaptive or conformist behavior. This book deploys a bold, and adventurously pluralist, interpretation of classical notions of cosmopolitanism to advance the frame of international criminal law to a broader construction of atrocity law and a more meaningful understanding of justice. Drumbl concludes by offering concrete reforms. He urges contextual responses to atrocity that welcome bottom-up perspectives, including restorative, reparative, and reintegrative traditions that may differ from the adversarial Western criminal trial.

Suggested Citation

Drumbl, Mark, Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law. Cambridge University Press, New York, 2007 , Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2007-14, Available at SSRN:

Mark Drumbl (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Sydney Lewis Hall
Lexington, VA 24450
United States
540-458-8531 (Phone)
540-458-8488 (Fax)


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