“Let’s Ditch War Crimes”? Let’s Not Get Carried Away with Justice Criticism and Cynicism

Justice in Conflict

Weapons being burnt during the official launch of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) process in Muramvya, Burundi. Burundian military signed up voluntarily to be disarmed under the auspices of United Nations peacekeepers and observers.   2/Dec/2004. Muramvya, Burundi. UN Photo/Martine Perret. www.un.org/av/photo/ Weapons being burnt during the official launch of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) process in Muramvya, Burundi. Burundian military signed up voluntarily to be disarmed under the auspices of United Nations peacekeepers and observers.
2/Dec/2004. Muramvya, Burundi. UN Photo/Martine Perret. http://www.un.org/av/photo/

Common criticisms and cynicism of international justice, and the International Criminal Court specifically, are frustrating as they tend to obscure reality, misunderstand both the limits and possibilities of accountability norms and institutions, and misdirect blame away from states whose cooperation and compliance is essential for ensuring accountability for atrocity crimes.

The arguments presented here in “Let’s Ditch War Crimes”  are typical in these respects: justice for the “big fish” has no deterrence effects; trials take too long and are not worth the cost; and our money is better spent on local justice. These criticisms are partially valid, but require some nuance and correction as they reflect…

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