Hostname: page-component-7dc689bd49-q9qq5 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-20T13:53:33.883Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Can the International Criminal Court Deter Atrocity?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 July 2016

Get access


Whether and how violence can be controlled to spare innocent lives is a central issue in international relations. The most ambitious effort to date has been the International Criminal Court (ICC), designed to enhance security and safety by preventing egregious human rights abuses and deterring international crimes. We offer the first systematic assessment of the ICC's deterrent effects for both state and nonstate actors. Although no institution can deter all actors, the ICC can deter some governments and those rebel groups that seek legitimacy. We find support for this conditional impact of the ICC cross-nationally. Our work has implications for the study of international relations and institutions, and supports the violence-reducing role of pursuing justice in international affairs.

Research Article
Copyright © The IO Foundation 2016 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Achen, Christopher, and Snidal, Duncan. 1989. Rational Deterrence Theory and Comparative Case Studies. World Politics 41 (2):143–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Agnew, Robert. 2011. Control and Disorganization Theory. In The Routledge Handbook of Deviant Behaviour, edited by Bryant, Clifton D., 114–20. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Ainley, Kirsten. 2011. The International Criminal Court on Trial. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 24 (3):309–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Akhavan, Payam. 2005. The Lord's Resistance Army Case: Uganda's Submission of the First State Referral to the International Criminal Court. American Journal of International Law 99 (2):403–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bass, Gary. 2003. In the Hands of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Becker, Gary S. 1968. Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach. Journal of Political Economy 76 (2):169217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bikundo, Edwin. 2012. The International Criminal Court and Africa: Exemplary Justice. Law and Critique 23 (1):2141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bueno, Olivia, and Angwandi, Gilbert. 2012. Steps Towards Justice, Frustrated Hopes: Some Reflections on the Experience of the International Criminal Court in Ituri. Discussion Paper 2, New York: International Refugee Rights Initiative.Google Scholar
Burke-White, William. 2010. Proactive Complementarity: The International Criminal Court and National Courts in the Rome System of International Justice. Harvard International Law Journal 49 (1):53108.Google Scholar
Chapman, Terrence, and Chaudoin, Stephen. 2013. Ratification Patterns and the International Criminal Court. International Studies Quarterly 57 (2):400–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chaudoin, Stephen. 2016. How Contestation Moderates the Effects of International Institutions: The International Criminal Court and Kenya. Journal of Politics 78 (2):557571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, Phil. 2011. Chasing Cases: The ICC and the Politics of State Referral in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. In The International Criminal Court and Complementarity: From Theory to Practice, edited by Stahn, Carsten and El Zeidy, Mohamed M., 1180–203. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, Tom, and Linzer, Drew. 2015. Should I Use Fixed or Random Effects? Political Science Research and Methods 3 (2):399408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, Dara, Peterman, Amber, Palermo, Tia, and Green, Amelia Hoover. 2011. Rape Reporting During War: Why the Numbers Don't Mean What You Think They Do. Foreign Affairs. Available at <>. Accessed 3 February 2014..+Accessed+3+February+2014.>Google Scholar
Cronin-Furman, Kate. 2013. Managing Expectations: International Criminal Trials and the Prospects for Deterrence of Mass Atrocity. International Journal of Transitional Justice 7 (3):434–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cunningham, David, Salehyan, Idean, and Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede. 2013. Non-State Actors in Civil Wars: A New Dataset. Conflict Management and Peace Science 30 (5):516–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dancy, Geoff, and Sikkink, Kathryn. 2012. Ratification and Human Rights Prosecutions: Toward a Transnational Theory of Treaty Compliance. New York University Journal of Internatinal Law and Politics 44 (3):751–90.Google Scholar
Dancy, Geoff, and Montal, Florencia. 2014. Unintended Positive Complementarity: Why International Criminal Court Investigations Increase Domestic Human Rights Prosecutions. Paper presented at American Society of International Law Conference, November, Chicago.Google Scholar
Drumbl, Mark. 2012. Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunoff, Jeffrey L., and Trachtman, Joel P.. 1999. The Law and Economics of Humanitarian Law Violation in Internal Conflict. American Journal of International Law 93 (2):394409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eck, Kristine, and Hultman, Lisa 2007. One-Sided Violence Against Civilians in War: Insights from New Fatality Data. Journal of Peace Research 44 (2):233–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fajnzylber, Pablo, Lederman, Daniel, and Loayza, Norman. 1998. Determinants of Crime Rates in Latin America and the World: An Empirical Assessment. Washington, DC: World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fazal, Tanisha M. 2013. Secessionism and Civilian Targeting. Unpublished manuscript, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN.Google Scholar
Fazal, Tanisha M. 2014. Dead Wrong? Battle Deaths, Military Medicine, and Exaggerated Reports of War's Demise. International Security 39 (1):95125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Findlay, M. 2014. Sign Up or Sign Off—Asia's Reluctant Engagement with the International Criminal Court. Cambodia Law and Policy Journal 1:7595.Google Scholar
Fish, Eric. 2010. Peace Through Complementarity: Solving the Ex Post Problem in International Criminal Court Prosecutions. Yale Law Journal 119 (7):1703–14.Google Scholar
Franck, Thomas. 1990. The Power of Legitimacy among Nations. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Geerken, Michael R., and Gove, Walter R.. 1975. Deterrence: Some Theoretical Considerations. Law and Society Review 9 (3):497513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilligan, Michael J. 2006. Is Enforcement Necessary for Effectiveness? A Model of the International Criminal Regime. International Organization 60 (4):935–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glasius, Marlies. 2009a. We Ourselves, We Are Part of the Functioning: The ICC, Victims, and Civil Society in the Central African Republic. African Affairs 108 (430):4967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glasius, Marlies. 2009b. What Is Global Justice and Who Decides? Civil Society and Victim Responses to the International Criminal Court's First Investigations. Human Rights Quarterly 31 (2):496520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goldsmith, Jack, and Krasner, Stephen D.. 2003. The Limits of Idealism. Daedalus 132 (1):4763.Google Scholar
Goldstein, Joshua S. 2011. Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
Goodliffe, Jay, and Hawkins, Darren. 2009. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Rome: Explaining International Criminal Court Negotiations. Journal of Politics 71 (3):977–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodliffe, Jay, Hawkins, Darren, Horne, Christine, and Nielson, Daniel. 2012. Dependence Networks and the International Criminal Court. International Studies Quarterly 56 (1):131–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodman, Ryan, and Jinks, Derek. 2003. Measuring the Effects of Human Rights Treaties. European Journal of International Law 14 (1):171–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gorur, Aditi. 2012. Striking While the Iron's Hot: The Case for Humanitarian Engagement with M23 After Goma. Washington, DC: Stimson Center. Available at <>. Accessed 15 October 2013..+Accessed+15+October+2013.>Google Scholar
Grammer, Christoph. 2004. The Rome Statute Regime as a Mainspring of International Criminal Law: The Success of the Rome Statute in Latin America and the Opposition of the USA. Heidelberg Journal of International Law 64 (4):1059–76.Google Scholar
Grasmick, Harold G., and Bryjak, George J.. 1980. The Deterrent Effect of Perceived Severity of Punishment. Social Forces 59 (2):471–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grono, Nick. 2012. The Deterrent Effect of the ICC on the Commission of International Crimes by Government Leaders. Speech delivered at the International Crisis Group, New York, 5 October 2012. Available at <>. Accessed 20 October 2014..+Accessed+20+October+2014.>Google Scholar
Hafner-Burton, Emilie M. 2013. Making Human Rights a Reality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hamilton, Rebecca J. 2014. The ICC's Exit Problem. New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 47 (1):158.Google Scholar
Hilbe, Joseph M. 2007. Negative Binomial Regression. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hillebrecht, Courtney. 2014. Domestic Politics and International Human Rights Tribunals: The Problem of Compliance. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Huang, Reyko. 2013. Rebel Diplomacy in Civil War. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August, Chicago.Google Scholar
Hultman, Lisa, Kathman, Jacob, and Shannon, Megan. 2013. United Nations Peacekeeping and Civilian Protection in Civil War. American Journal of Political Science 57 (4):875–91.Google Scholar
Iacus, Stefano M., King, Gary, and Porro, Giuseppe. 2012. Causal Inference Without Balance Checking: Coarsened Exact Matching. Political Analysis 20 (1):124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
International Criminal Court (ICC). 2006. Office of the Prosecutor. Third Report of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to the UN Security Council Pursuant to UNSCR 1593 (2005). The Hague, The Netherlands: ICC.Google Scholar
International Criminal Court (ICC). 2011. Report of the Court on Complementarity. Report to the Assembly of States Parties. 10th sess. New York, 12–21 December 2011. ICC-ASP/10/23.Google Scholar
International Criminal Court (ICC). 2012. Office of the Prosecutor. Prosecutorial Strategy: 2009–2012. The Hague, The Netherlands: ICC.Google Scholar
Ipsos-Synovate. 2011. Confirmation Hearings Boost Support for the ICC Process. Available at <>. Accessed 5 March 2014..+Accessed+5+March+2014.>Google Scholar
Jo, Hyeran. 2015. Compliant Rebels: Rebel Groups and International Law in World Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jo, Hyeran, and Thomson, Catarina. 2014. Legitimacy and Compliance with International Law: Access to Detainees in Civil Conflicts 1991–2006. British Journal of Political Science 44 (2):323–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kahan, Dan M. 1997. Social Influence, Social Meaning, and Deterrence. Virginia Law Review 83 (2):349–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kim, Hunjoon, and Sikkink, Kathryn. 2010. Explaining the Deterrence Effect of Human Rights Prosecutions for Transitional Countries. International Studies Quarterly 54 (4):939–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
King, Gary, Honaker, James, Joseph, Anne, and Scheve, Kenneth. 2001. Analyzing Incomplete Political Science Data: An Alternative Algorithm for Multiple Imputation. American Political Science Review 95 (1):4969.Google Scholar
Kleffner, Jann K. 2008. Complementarity in the Rome Statute and National Criminal Jurisdictions. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kleiman, Mark. 2009. When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klick, Jonathan, and Tabarrok, Alexander. 2010. Police, Prisons and Punishment: The Empirical Evidence on Crime Deterrence. In Handbook on the Economics of Crime, edited by Benson, Bruce L. and Zimmerman, Paul R., 127–44. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
Klick, Jonathan, MacDonald, John, and Stratmann, Thomas. 2012. Mobile Phones and Crime Deterrence: An Underappreciated Link. In Research Handbook on the Economics of Criminal Law, edited by Harel, Alon and Hylton, Keith N., 243–56. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
Koskenniemi, Martti. 2002. Between Impunity and Show Trials. Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law 6 (1):132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ku, Julian, and Nzelibe, Jide. 2006. Do International Criminal Tribunals Deter or Exacerbate Humanitarian Atrocities? Washington University Law Review 84 (4):777833.Google Scholar
Lessa, Francesca, and Payne, Leigh, eds. 2012. Amnesty in the Age of Human Rights Accountability: Comparative and International Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lupu, Yonatan. 2013. Best Evidence: The Role of Information in Domestic Judicial Enforcement of International Human Rights Agreements. International Organization 67 (3):469503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCarthy, Bill. 2002. New Economics of Sociological Criminology. Annual Review of Sociology 28:417–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McKay, Fiona. 2004. The Role of Human Rights NGOs in Relation to ICC Investigations . Discussion Paper. New York: Human Rights First.Google Scholar
Meernik, James, and Shairick, Jamie. 2011. Promoting International Humanitarian Law: Strong States and the Ratification of the ICC Treaty. International Area Studies Review 14 (2):2348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meernik, James, Aloisi, Rosa, Sowell, Marsha, and Nichols, Angela. 2012. The Impact of Human Rights Organizations on Naming and Shaming Campaigns. Journal of Conflict Resolution 56 (2):233–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mendeloff, David. 2014. Punish or Persuade? The ICC and the Limits to Coercion in Cases of Ongoing Violence. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, March, Toronto, Canada.Google Scholar
Mitchell, Sara, and Powell, Emilia Justyna. 2011. Domestic Law Goes Global: Legal Traditions and International Court. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morrow, James. 2014. Order Within Anarchy: The Laws of War as an International Institution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moustafa, Tamir. 2014. Law and Courts in Authoritarian Regimes. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 10:281–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mueller, Susanne D. 2014. Kenya and the International Criminal Court: Politics, the Election and the Law. Journal of Eastern African Studies 8 (1):2542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mullins, Christopher W., and Rothe, Dawn L.. 2010. The Ability of the International Criminal Court to Deter Violations of International Criminal Law: A Theoretical Assessment. International Criminal Law Review 10 (5):771–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mushanga, Tibamanya Mwene. 2011. Criminology in Africa. 2nd ed. Nairobi: Law Africa.Google Scholar
Nagin, Daniel S. 1998. Criminal Deterrence Research at the Outset of the Twenty-First Century. Crime and Justice 23 (1):142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nagin, Daniel S., and Paternoster, Raymond. 1993. Enduring Individual Differences and Rational Choice Theories of Crime. Law and Society Review 27 (3):467–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nagin, Daniel S., and Pogarsky, Greg. 2001. Integrating Celerity, Impulsivity, and Extralegal Sanction Threats into a Model of General Deterrence: Theory and Evidence. Criminology 39 (4):865–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Neumayer, Eric. 2005. Do International Human Rights Treaties Improve Respect for Human Rights? Journal of Conflict Resolution 49 (6):925–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nielsen, Richard. 2013. Rewarding Human Rights? Selective Aid Sanctions Against Repressive States. International Studies Quarterly 57 (4):791803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nouwen, Sarah. 2014. Complementarity in the Line of Fire: The Catalysing Effect of the International Criminal Court in Uganda and Sudan. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Nouwen, Sarah, and Werner, Wouter. 2011. Doing Justice to the Political: The International Criminal Court in Uganda and Sudan. European Journal of International Law 21 (4):941–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Brien, Éadaoin, Engstrom, Par, and Cantor, David. 2011. In the Shadow of the ICC: Colombia and International Criminal Justice. London: Human Rights Consortium, University of London.Google Scholar
Open Society Foundation. 2010. Promoting Complementarity in Practice: Lessons from Three ICC Situation Countries. Open Society Justice Initiative Report to the Assembly of States Parties, 7 December 2010. New York: Open Society Foundation.Google Scholar
Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
Rincke, Johannes, and Traxler, Christian. 2011. Enforcement Spillovers. Review of Economics and Statistics 93 (4):1224–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Risse, Thomas, Ropp, Steve C., and Sikkink, Kathryn, eds. 1999. The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rodman, Kenneth. 2008. Darfur and the Limits of Legal Deterrence. Human Rights Quarterly 30 (3):529–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schabas, William. 2011. An Introduction to the International Criminal Court. 4th ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sikkink, Kathryn. 2011. The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
Simmons, Beth A. 2009. Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simmons, Beth A., and Danner, Allison M.. 2010. Credible Commitments and the International Criminal Court. International Organization 64 (2):225–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sivakumaran, Sandesh. 2012. The Law of Non-International Armed Conflict. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Slaughter, Anne-Marie, and Burke-White, William. 2006. The Future of International Law Is Domestic. Harvard International Law Journal 47 (2):327–52.Google Scholar
Snyder, Jack, and Vinjamuri, Leslie. 2003. Trials and Errors: Principle and Pragmatism in Strategies of International Justice. International Security 28 (3):544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stahn, Carsten, and El Zeidy, Mohamed. 2011. The International Criminal Court and Complementarity: From Theory to Practice. Vols. 1 and 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Terracino, Julio. 2007. National Implementation of ICC Crimes: Impact of National Jurisdictions and the ICC. Journal of International Criminal Justice 5 (2):421–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Themnér, Lotta, and Wallensteen, Peter. 2013. Armed Conflicts, 1946–2012. Journal of Peace Research 50 (4):509–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tittle, Charles R. 1980. Sanctions and Social Deviance: The Question of Deterrence. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
Tittle, Charles R., Botchkovar, Ekaterina V., and Antonaccio, Olena. 2011. Criminal Contemplation, National Context, and Deterrence. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 27 (2):225–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tyler, Tom. 2006. Why People Obey the Law. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Ulfelder, Jay, and Valentino, Benjamin. 2008. Assessing Risks of State-Sponsored Mass Killing. Research Report, Political Instability Task Force, Arlington, VA.Google Scholar
Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP). 2013. UCDP Battle-Related Deaths Dataset v.5-2013. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University. Available at <>. Accessed 20 January 2014..+Accessed+20+January+2014.>Google Scholar
Walter, Barbara F. 2009. Reputation and Civil War: Why Separatist Conflicts Are So Violent. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Williams, Kirk R., and Hawkins, Richard. 1986. Perceptual Research on General Deterrence: A Critical Review. Law and Society Review 20 (4):545–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weinstein, Jeremy. 2007. Inside Rebellion: Politics of Insurgent Violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Wright, Valerie. 2010. Deterrence in Criminal Justice: Evaluating Certainty vs. Severity of Punishment. Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project.Google Scholar
Zimring, Franklin E., and Hawkins, Gordon. 1973. Deterrence: The Legal Threat in Crime Control. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Jo and Simmons supplementary material

Figures and Tables

Download Jo and Simmons supplementary material(File)
File 115 KB