Comment on the Deterrence Lecture Question: “To what extent is the deterrence of mass atrocities an attainable goal of the ICC?”
While deterrence seems an unrealistic goal for the ICC at the moment, I do not think it is necessarily impossible or impractical in the future. As others have remarked, there has only been one conviction at the ICC in 10 years, meaning conviction for these crimes is an exception rather than common practice at the ICC at this point. For deterrence to work, potential perpetrators must know that punishment exists, believe there is a credible threat of being punished, and judge their actions to not be worth risking that punishment. The Rome Statute has been widely signed, so we can presume that at least state actors are aware that punishment exists for these mass atrocities (I am not sure of the extent to which non-state actors are aware). However, such a low conviction rate does not make punishment seem like a credible threat and as others stated, the political, ethnic, social and other motivating factors for these perpetrators likely outweigh their fear of punishment by the ICC. However, if the ICC can issue indictments and arrest perpetrators in timely and consistent manner, then deterrence may be possible as these arrests accumulate. I thus agree with one of the comments above, that the ICC should focus on issues that are slowing down or preventing the indictment and arrest process for now, which will help towards achieving the goal of deterrence.
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