Human Rights Review

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 349-372

First online:

Building the Rule of International Criminal Law: The Role of Judges and Prosecutors in the Apprehension of War Criminals

  • Gwyneth C. McClendonAffiliated withPolitics Department, Princeton University Email author 

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International criminal tribunals are weak institutions, especially since they do not have their own police forces to execute arrest warrants. Understandably then, much of the existing literature has focused exclusively on pressure from major powers and on changing domestic politics to explain the apprehension of suspected war criminals. In contrast, this article turns attention back to the tribunals themselves. I propose three ways in which the activities of international criminal tribunals impact compliance with arrest warrants: through the selection of individuals to indict, demonstrated leniency on some suspects and outreach to domestic legal professionals. Using a duration model that accounts for sample selection and data collected on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, I test these theories alongside other existing explanations. I find that court activities can have an independent effect on the successful implementation of international criminal law.


International law Compliance War crimes Human rights Tribunals