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Responsibility for atrocity: individual criminal agency and the International Criminal Court

By Kirsten Ainley


This chapter is concerned with the shift in international political and legal discourse away from assigning responsibility for political violence to states, and towards assigning criminal responsibility to individuals, in particular with the establishment, in 1998, of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This new Court is premised on assumptions that there are universal moral standards which apply to human behaviour, and that through the assignation of responsibility to individuals and the infliction of punishment according to these standards, the international criminal justice system (ICJS) can deter crime, end conflict and bring about justice. The chapter takes seriously these goals, but questions the ability of the system to achieve them—and raises the question of whether the ICJS may in fact encourage atrocity by enabling state violence. It examines the move from state civil agency to individual criminal agency within international legal discourse, the limited and internally contradictory conception of international agency necessary to sustain this move and the uneasy relationship between morality, politics and law conceived by the framers of international criminal law, before considering the implications of the new system

Topics: K Law (General)
Publisher: Rodopi
Year: 2006
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Provided by: LSE Research Online
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