Comment on the Deterrence Lecture Question: “To what extent is the deterrence of mass atrocities an attainable goal of the ICC?”
Currently, the actions of the ICC do lead to some deterrence on the side of state officials. This is largely seen in the first stage of criminal justice described by Professor Fearon in which potential offenders choose whether or not to commit crimes in the first place. The reasons for this are both public and personal. As the leaders of nations, there exists a need to maintain diplomatic relations with a number of countries. A warrant by the ICC holds serious implications with regard to diplomacy. One, it is a serious hamper to political clout. States will be less willing to deal with diplomats with outstanding international warrants on their head. The stigma is great, but there are a number of practical considerations as well. A head of state or other official needs to travel out of diplomatic necessity. The risk that any such travel poses after any negative action by the ICC is serious. As individuals, many state officials hope to leave open the option to one day step down. Many of these leaders are not willing to sacrifice a shot at a happy, peaceful retirement through the commission of atrocities. Nonetheless, these arguments are shaky at best, and it is obvious that more work need be done to increase the deterrent effect of the ICC. Where this effect is truly hindered is the case of non-state offenders. For many rebel leaders or other figures facing ICC indictment, retirement is not an option. There is little hope for a peaceful abdication of power. The fear and deterrent effect lies in regimes opposed to such groups, not the proceedings of some distant judicial body. These figures fear torture and death, not indictment. Thus, in the first stage of decision making, the ICC holds little deterrent effect. However, it may serve as a better alternative than what they may otherwise face if they are caught, so in the second stage of decision making, it may lead offenders to step down. The primary cause for this current deficiency in the ICC lies in its inability to apprehend criminals. It remains a largely ineffective body because there is little reason to fear it. Indicted leaders face little worse than negative stigma, and for others, it provides a better option. Regardless, its presence remains irrelevant until those accused are apprehended.
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