The ICC to the Rescue… Kind of, Maybe.

ICC in the New YorkerI received the above snippet from a friend (and friend of the blog) and wanted to share it with readers. It appeared in a recent New Yorker article entitled “The Preist, the Killers, and a Looming Genocide” which covers how civilians are coping with ongoing violence and instability in the Central African Republic.

For observers, practitioners and scholars of international criminal justice, it is a fascinating anecdote for a number of reasons. First, it is a small but notable piece of evidence that individuals mired in the context of political violence view the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a tool with which they can leverage their security and safety. Second, and just as notably, it suggests that even those individuals who use the ICC as a means to prevent violence or atrocities don’t actually believe it is particularly effective (i.e. “It was a lie” that the antibalaka leader would ever end up in The Hague).

Such anecdotal evidence has important implications for the study of the ICC’s ability to deter crimes and atrocities. If this anecdote is true, then the ICC has been usefully used by people who do not believe in its power to deter potential perpetrators of atrocities from doing so.

In recent years, the study of deterrence has stagnated quite a bit, in large part because of a broad consensus that it is virtually impossible to research the subject and demonstrate that a potential perpetrator did not commit an atrocity as a direct result of potential sanction from the ICC. Notably, however, fantastic forthcoming scholarship by researchers such as Michael Broache and David Mendeloff has begun to reinvigorate deterrence literature. Identifying, analyzing and assessing deep, empirical examples like the one cited in the New Yorker article may hold the promise of reviving a relatively stagnant domain of international criminal justice.

About Mark Kersten

Mark Kersten is a consultant at the Wayamo Foundation, a Senior Researcher at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and a law student at McGill University Law School. He is also author of the book, 'Justice in Conflict - The Effects of the International Criminal Court's Interventions on Ending Wars and Building Peace' (Oxford University Press, 2016).
This entry was posted in Central African Republic (CAR), International Criminal Court (ICC). Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The ICC to the Rescue… Kind of, Maybe.

  1. manueleynard says:

    Interesting story. This aspect of the functions of the ICC, together with “positive complementarity”, is a key component to the Court’ success in the future.

    I would be happy to know more about the studies of Michael Broache and David Mendeloff you’re referring to.

    All best regards,


  2. Mark Kersten says:

    Dear Manuel,

    Thanks for your comment. The articles by Broache and Mendeloff are unfortunately not published yet but stay tuned. I’ll post links to them here when they are published.



  3. manueleynard says:

    Dear Mark,

    Many thanks for your reply. I look forward to it !



  4. jrwnyc says:

    I noticed this snippet when I was scanning the New Yorker article, and what it bought to mind was the work of Cesare Beccaria, and the notion that it is not fear of punishment, but “certainty” of prosecution that constitutes the basis of modern rule of law – or In this instance, the idea that the presence of the ICC has grown to the extent that it is beginning to fulfill that role. I find a strange sort of hope from this anecdote, as the arguments about the ICC lacking an enforcement arm always appeared to discount this form of sociological development or role for institutionalized justice mechanisms.

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