Comment on the Deterrence Lecture Question: “To what extent is the deterrence of mass atrocities an attainable goal of the ICC?”
Does the ICC have deterrence effects? Two aspects of the issue are important to note to answer this question. First, what is needed for the legal institution to have the deterrence effects? Legal institutions around the world bear deterrence on potential criminals not because their often elegant buildings stand on the ground as symbols of justice for all. Thousands of criminal provisions are only pieces of paper, when the “punishments” are not put into effect. Unfortunately, yes again, it is back to the ICC’s arrest (and persecution) issue. The records of 1 acquisition and 1 acquittal question the very existence of ICC, and of course, the supposed deterrence effects of ICC follow as controversial issue. Needless to say, ICC must persecute more criminals in the next decade; otherwise, the deterrence effects will be very much minimal. The second aspect of the deterrence issue is follow-up of what “flatpax” wrote in his comments. Considering the nature of criminals who committed heinous crimes – genocide and crimes against humanity in particular –, I also question ICC’s deterrence effects on these individuals. According to one research in psychology, depending on the cruelty of crimes, the perception of rules by criminals varies (the perception of pain also varies). Of course, it is important to note that these criminals of genocides usually participate in atrocities indirectly, which is different from what the individual serial killers perceive. Nonetheless, they are similar in their disregard of humane morality, and therefore, the deterrence effects of ICC on the potential criminals may be rather limited.
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