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From Sudan to Syria: Locating ‘Regime Change’ in R2P and the ICC *

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Recently, R2P and the ICC have been mobilised in different forms to respond to state-directed mass atrocities in Sudan, Libya and Syria. Notably, this has generated debate over the capacity and legitimacy of using R2P and the ICC to facilitate ‘regime change’ in those cases and beyond. This article critically examines where regime change, as an aim and outcome, sits within R2P and ICC doctrine and practice. We demonstrate the ambiguous position of regime change in R2P and ICC doctrine, where it is not explicitly endorsed as an objective but actions that may lead to it are permitted. In practice, R2P and the ICC have been used to starkly different ends in the three cases. Such ambiguity—about what regime change is, and about how far international intervention can legitimately go—and inconsistency in application, can undermine global support for R2P and the ICC as tools for preventing and responding to atrocities.

Affiliations: 1: University of Melbourne,,


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