Credible Commitments and the International Criminal Court

42 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2007

Date Written: June 1, 2007


The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the most comprehensive effort to date to deal with justice, peace and security at the international level. There is a good deal of debate over whether the Court will make any important contribution in this regard, and certainly a dearth of theorizing as to why any state would sacrifice its sovereignty to join. In this paper, we argue that the ICC can be understood as a mechanism to enhance government's ability to make credible commitments to their domestic populations (including their opponents) that they will refrain from atrocities in civil war situations. States that have credible ways to punish potential perpetrators shy away from the court despite their experience with civil conflicts. We also present statistical evidence of tentative moves toward peace for those countries that have experienced civil war, lack domestic accountability mechanisms, and have ratified the ICC statutes. This evidence suggests that the ICC is in fact perceived by parties involved in local conflicts as a way to tie their hands with respect to warfighting tactics, on the condition that they have no credible way domestically to do so. This implies that the ICC does in fact have a useful role to play in budging parties in civil conflict toward peaceful settlements.

Keywords: International Criminal Court

Suggested Citation

Danner, Allison Marston and Simmons, Beth A., Credible Commitments and the International Criminal Court (June 1, 2007). 2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Allison Marston Danner

Vanderbilt Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South, Room 272
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-322-6762/2-6762 on campus (Phone)
615-322-6631 (Fax)

Beth A. Simmons (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
7817990076 (Phone)

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