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Building the International Criminal Court


  • Page extent: 322 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.57 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521873123)

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$113.00 (P)

The ICC is the first and only standing international court capable of prosecuting humanity’s worst crimes: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It faces huge obstacles. It has no police force; it pursues investigations in areas of tremendous turmoil, conflict, and death; it is charged both with trying suspects and with aiding their victims; and it seeks to combine divergent legal traditions in an entirely new international legal mechanism.

International law advocates sought to establish a standing international criminal court for more than 150 years. Other, temporary, single-purpose criminal tribunals, truth commissions, and special courts have come and gone, but the ICC is the only permanent inheritor of the Nuremberg legacy.

In Building the International Criminal Court, Oberlin College Professor of Politics Ben Schiff analyzes the ICC, melding historical perspective, international relations theories, and observers’ insights to explain the Court’s origins, creation, innovations, dynamics, and operational challenges.


Introduction; 1. River of justice; 2. Learning from the Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals; 3. The statute - justice v. sovereignty; 4. Building the court; 5. NGOs - advocates, assets, critics, and goads; 6. ICC-state relations; 7. The first 'situations'; Conclusions: the politics of the International Criminal Court; Websites for further and ongoing information; Bibliography and sources; Index.

Prize Winner

Winner, 2009 Chadwick Alger Book Prize, International Studies Association

Winner, 2009 Best New Book on the United Nations System, Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS)


Building the International Criminal Court is a work of great significance and an essential tool for understanding the ICC. Schiff's book is also very timely; exactly ten years after the signing of the Rome Statute, the ICC is now in full operation, but its every move is still formative and carries lasting implications for its future. While the Court stands as a symbol of progress for humanity, it is also the target of criticism from skeptics who argue that the highly politicized institution remains plagued by inefficiency and institutional deficiencies. Schiff’s presentation of the Court and its beginnings allows the reader to evaluate these criticisms against an informed and comprehensive picture of the institution and its functions. From the outset, Schiff himself is explicit about his concerns that the practical limitations and political nature of the Court present potentially insurmountable challenges. But he also demonstrates the importance of the Court’s work and gives many reasons to be optimistic about the Court's potential. Without advocating for a specific viewpoint, Schiff balances optimism and realism in a way that allows the reader to form his or her own conclusions about the potential and the limitations of the ICC.”
Beatrice Lindstrom, New York University Journal of Law and Politics

“Drawing from multiple strands of international relations theory, Benjamin Schiff examines the creation and operation of the International Criminal Court. He takes a hard look at the political past and future of this new international organization. This important book covers extensive ground and is essential reading for a public concerned - as it should be - with the interplay between law, politics, tragedy, and justice. It is only by studying the International Criminal Court that its work can be improved. By illuminating the path forward, Schiff has done us all a tremendous service.”
-Mark A. Drumbl, Washington and Lee University

“An insightful study of an unprecedented international institution. Ben Schiff, in a clear and flowing analysis, blends history, law and political science into a work of lasting significance.”
-M. Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University

“A superb systematic examination of the International Criminal Court - the ‘streams’ of ideas and actions that shaped it, the challenges of building a new, functioning organization; the handling of the first four situations referred to it; and the ongoing tensions between peace and justice and political and judicial choices it faces. Given its scope, Benjamin Schiff's book is invaluable for both scholars and practitioners; its clear prose also makes it an excellent choice for graduate and upper-level courses in human rights, international law, and international organization.”
-Margaret P. Karns, University of Dayton

“The tensions in the establishment and operations of the ICC are masterfully examined in this comprehensive work by Schiff. Particularly fascinating is the dilemma between justice and peace in the inaugural four African cases on the docket. Grounded in international relations theories, this book is a ‘must read’ for scholars and students of international law and organization and international human rights.”
-Karen Mingst, University of Kentucky

“…a highly readable and perceptive analysis…In his stocktaking, Schiff demonstrates a particular knack of amalgamating all the political and juridical dimensions that challenge this unparalleled institution…To sum up, it can be said that Schiff’s book not only provides its reader with internal insights into the origin, architecture, and policy of the youngest and probably most ambitious global institution: it also develops an implicit vision of its role as a global political player. Despite an enormous density of information, Schiff manages to tell a fascinating story about diplomatic entanglements, power interests, and international co-operation during the emergence of a new global institution.”
Henning Hahn, Department of Philosophy, University of Kassel, Development in Practice

“A richly detailed, insightful, and engrossing account of the establishment and evolution of one of the world’s most important new institutions, this remarkable book is a historical document of major significance. A must read for scholars of international law and diplomacy, and anyone interested in the world-wide struggle against impunity.”
-Michael P. Scharf, Case Western Reserve University

"Tightly woven and highly cogent, [Schiff's] discussion is an impressive dissection of the political tensions that have called into question the ICC's own role in administering justice...[A] seamless and comprehensive analysis of the 'First Situations.'"
Perspectives on Politics, Steven C, Roach, University of South Florida

"[The book] provides one of the best contributions to both the fields of international relations and international law by recognizing and describing the process that has led to the establishment of the ICC as one in which international justice concerns and political interests came into place."
AJS, Rosa Aloisi, University of North Texas

"[A] work of great significance and an essential tool for understanding the ICC."
International Law and Politics, Beatrice Lindstrom

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