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The Ability of the International Criminal Court to Deter Violations of International Criminal Law: A Theoretical Assessment

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Many actors within the field of international criminal justice, including those who work for the Court itself, have heralded the deterrent power of the court and its ability to remove impunity for violations of international criminal law. Practitioners and scholars routinely assume a probability at best, to an assumption of sureness, of a powerful deterrent effect. Given the ongoing crimes against humanity that have occurred in the Twenty-First Century, such claims can only be seen as hopeful proclamations. This article examines the potential inhibitory effects that the Court may have on violations of international criminal law, especially international humanitarian law, grounded in criminological insights and explanatory power. To do so, we lay out the current state of thinking in deterrence theory and critically explore how it can, or fails to, generate the effects which so many international public actors, including the court itself, claim.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA; 2: Director of the International State Crime Research Consortium Old Dominion University, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Norfolk VA, USA


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