Comment on the Deterrence Lecture Question: “To what extent is the deterrence of mass atrocities an attainable goal of the ICC?”
The ICC may not yet be able to have a compelling deterrent effect, but certainly has the future potential to be a significant factor. Its very existence is meaningful, representing a manifestation of international norms of acceptable state behavior. Diplomatic relations and international pressure could have an important influence on certain actors' behavior, especially state officials, but these tactics are less effective on figures that can easily melt away into the countryside, as has been seen with some rebel leaders. Unfortunately, the inability of the court to enforce its warrants is a huge obstacle to any significant deterrence effect, and is one of the biggest weaknesses of the institution. Yet, the issues of sovereignty are addressed, this will likely remain a major flaw. Historically, states are understandably reluctant to publicly endorse any infringement of national sovereignty, which an ICC warrant enforcement force would certainly be. Though it is certainly the more politically acceptable solution, relying on states to turn over these wanted figures is incredibly counterintuitive. Beyond the obvious potential for conflicts of interest, turning certain figures over to a foreign body can be domestically controversial and destabilizing. Until these perpetrators of violence actually believe that there will be consequences of their actions, the ICC will not be able to prevent atrocities, though it can address them retrospectively. An alternative solution to enforcing arrest warrants is needed before the ICC can truly help end the culture of impunity surrounding mass atrocity issues.
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