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The International Criminal Court’s Authority Crisis and Kant’s Political Ethics

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image of International Criminal Law Review

The International Criminal Court (ICC) faces a profound authority crisis. This article explores the underlying conditions and ethical implications of this crisis in light of Immanuel Kant’s (1724–1804) political theory. The ICC’s authority crisis is twofold: First, having been constructed as a purely legal actor, the Court’s inevitable role in politics has undermined perceptions of its legitimacy. Second, having been constructed as a supranational substitute for domestic legal authority, the ICC has been subverted by other, political branches of the state, such as the executive. These problems have been particularly salient in Africa where states have vociferously challenged the Court’s investigations and prosecutions. Kantian political ethics show that the ICC’s authority crisis is an intractable moral problem that must be addressed collectively and coercively by sovereign states acting upon a larger, cosmopolitan duty to enforce universal rights.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada,


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