International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

ICC in Crisis?


In Mark Kersten’s blog post to Justice in Conflict, he analyzed the perception that the ICC is always in “crisis”. The ICC has faced trouble in the past few years, most recently failing to prosecute Kenyan President Kenyatta and Vice President Ruto for their roles in the post election violence in Kenya. There has also been backlash against the ICC for their supposed unfair targeting of African countries and their inability to intervene in key situations like Syria and North Korea.

The ICC, due to the nature of its mandate, will likely always be a body in “crisis”. The decisions made by the ICC affect states all around the globe, and it is impossible for the institution to end impunity and get justice for victims of atrocities without stepping on a few toes to do it. In order to function, the ICC must push states to cooperate with investigations, putting them in a difficult place.

Without this conflict; however, there would be no need for an International Criminal Court. If states were more willing to prosecute their own people for violations of international law, the ICC would not exist. As this is not the case, the ICC must exist to insure accountability for those most responsible for atrocities. As these investigations and trials are often not in the best interests of all states, states will often refuse to cooperate with ICC investigations, leading to the view that the ICC is in “crisis”.


2 responses to “ICC in Crisis?

  1. ah2017intjustice March 2, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I believe it is especially important to keep this perspective in mind in the context of the impunity debate. Evidence that the international community has not “abandoned” the fight against impunity is presented through the courts mere existence. As Mark Kersten points out, many involved in the founding of the court were not confident that the court would even survive past its infancy. The failures and missteps of the court are undeniable, but they are not indicative of abandoning its mission. Rather, they are are inevitable part of learning to navigate the competing interests of the international community. International law has historically been between states, even human rights law previously required a state to act of your behalf, so the practice of an outside court holding individuals accountable for crimes is simply a new practice. The ICC will be in “crisis” because its very purpose is to interject itself into the worlds worst atrocities. If there was a easy solution, it wouldn’t require intervention from the court of last resort.

  2. samdawg94 March 5, 2015 at 10:42 am

    While I agree that the ICC is currently in perpetual crisis, I think it is less clear that it is necessary that the Court remains this way, as Mark Kersten argues. Ideally, the ICC should be powerful enough so that it can push up against governments and challenge norms while still retaining its legitimacy. There is a fine balance between serving complete justice and abusing power, but the ICC’s duty is to intervene in horrific atrocities and be able to assert some sort of unbiased authority which governments and citizens respect. As of now, this is certainly not the case, in light of the major impunity gaps and different mechanisms state parties use to influence the court and color their perception of situations. Yet, hopefully, as the ICC takes on more cases and gains more legitimacy, they will be able to hold all perpetrators (including rebel leaders and heads of state) accountable, and simultaneously remain strong and not in a “crisis” mode.

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