Empirical Analysis of the Tradeoff between Conflict Termination and Atrocity Deterrence

Daniel Krcmaric*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


There are two diverging schools of thought that discuss how the ICC, and the pursuit of international justice in general, might influence violence. On the one hand, optimists argue that the threat of prosecution deters atrocities. Consistent with the claim of Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth that “behind much of the savagery of modern history lies impunity, "1 the assumption is that the promise of legal accountability can prevent the next Holocaust or Rwandan Genocide. On the other hand, pessimists worry that if the warring parties are vulnerable to international criminal prosecution, they may decide to keep fighting when they would otherwise make peace. During the 2011 Libyan conflict, for instance, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl speculated that “Libyans are stuck in a civil war in large part because of Gaddafi’s international prosecution.”2 The current debate contains some valuable points. However, it is too simplistic to argue that the ICC is exclusively helpful or exclusively harmful. In fact, the debate between optimists and pessimists is missing the big picture: the positive and perverse effects of the ICC are intimately linked. In this post, I will make the case that a credible threat of international justice should both prolong ongoing conflicts and deter future atrocities. My argument hinges on a previously neglected factor: how international justice shapes the viability of exile as a retirement option for abusive leaders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe International Criminal Court
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary Challenges and Reform Proposals
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9789004384095
ISBN (Print)9789004384088
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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