Res Publica

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 209–225 | Cite as

The End of ‘the end of impunity’? The International Criminal Court and the Challenge from Truth Commissions

  • Jakob v. H. Holtermann


With its express intention ‘to put an end to impunity’, the International Criminal Court (ICC) faces a substantial challenge in the shape of conditional amnesties granted in future national truth commissions (TCs)—a challenge that invokes fundamental considerations of criminal justice ethics. In this article, I give an account of the challenge, and I consider a possible solution to it presented by Declan Roche. According to this solution the ICC-prosecutor should respect national amnesties and prosecute and punish only those perpetrators who have refused to cooperate with the TC. I argue, however, that this compromise is untenable. As a general rule, if we justify the ICC on grounds of deterrence we should not accept conditional amnesties granted in national TCs.


International Criminal Court Deterrence Truth commissions Amnesties Restorative justice Declan Roche 


  1. Acorn, A.E. 2004. Compulsory compassion: A critique of restorative justice. Vancouver: UBC Press.Google Scholar
  2. Aristotle, 1987. Nichomachean ethics. In A new Aristotle reader, ed. J.L. Ackrill. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Braithwaite, J. 1989. Crime, shame and reintegration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Braithwaite, J. 2002. Restorative justice & responsive regulation. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Brudholm, T. 2008. Resentment’s virtue: Jean Améry and the refusal to forgive. Philadelphia, PA.; Chesham: Temple University Press; Combined Academic. [distributor].Google Scholar
  6. Christie, N. 1977. Conflicts as property. The British Journal of Criminology 17(1): 1–15.Google Scholar
  7. Clinton, B. 2000. Statement by the president,, accessed on November 26, 2008.
  8. Dignan, J. 2003. Towards a systemic model of restorative justice. In Restorative justice and criminal justice: Competing or reconcilable paradigms?, ed. A. Von Hirsch, J. Roberts, A.E. Bottoms, K. Roach, and M. Schiff, 135–156. Oxford; Portland, OR: Hart.Google Scholar
  9. Dugard, J. 2002. Possible conflicts of jurisdiction with truth commissions. In The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: A commentary, ed. A. Cassese, P. Gaeta, and J.R.W.D. Jones, 693–704. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dworkin, R. 1986. Law’s empire. Oxford: Hart, 1998.Google Scholar
  11. Ellis, A. 2001. What should we do with war criminals? In War crimes and collective wrongdoing: A reader, ed. A. Jokic, 97–112. Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  12. Ellis, A. 2010. War crimes, punishment and the burden of proof. Res Publica 16(1). doi: 10.1007/s11158-010-9110-6.
  13. Holtermann, J.v.H. 2009a. A “slice of cheese”—A deterrence-based argument for the International Criminal Court. Human Rights Review. doi: 10.1007/s12142-009-0139-x Google Scholar
  14. Holtermann, J.v.H. 2009b. Outlining the shadow of the axe—On restorative justice and the use of trial and punishment. Criminal Law and Philosophy 3(2): 187–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hughes, L.N. 1997. Don’t make a federal case out of it: The constitution and the nationalization of crime. American Journal of Criminal Law 25(1): 151–163. Fall 1997.Google Scholar
  16. International Criminal Court. 2008. Twelfth diplomatic briefing of the International Criminal Court.Google Scholar
  17. Johnstone, G. 2002. Restorative justice: Ideas, values, debates. Cullompton, Devon, UK; Portland, OR: Willan Publishers.Google Scholar
  18. Marshall, T.F. 2003. Restorative justice: An overview. In A restorative justice reader: Texts, sources, context, ed. G. Johnstone, 28–45. Cullompton, UK; Portland, OR: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  19. May, L. 2005. Crimes against humanity: A normative account. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. McCold, P. 2000. Toward a holistic vision of restorative juvenile justice: A reply to the maximalist model. Contemporary Justice Review 3(4): 357–414.Google Scholar
  21. Minow, M. 2000. The hope for healing: What can truth commissions do? In Truth vs. justice: The morality of truth commissions, ed. R.I. Rotberg, and D. Thompson, 235–260. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Roche, D. 2005. Truth commission amnesties and the International Criminal Court. The British Journal of Criminology 45(4): 565–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rotberg, R.I., and D.F. Thompson. 2000. Truth vs. justice: The morality of truth commissions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Tallgren, I. 2002. The sensibility and sense of international law. European Journal of International Law 13(3): 561–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Thomas, A.S. 1964. Summa Theologiæ. Latin text and English translation, introductions, notes, appendices and glossaries. London: Blackfriars in conjunction with Eyre & Spottiswoode.Google Scholar
  26. Tutu, D. 2005. Tutu urges apartheid prosecutions, BBC News, Africa, Accessed 26/11/08.
  27. Van Ness, D.W. 2002. Creating restorative systems. In Restorative justice and the law, ed. L. Walgrave, 130–149. Devon, UK: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  28. Walgrave, L. 2002. Restorative justice and the law: Socio-ethical and juridical foundations for a systemic approach. In Restorative justice and the law, ed. L. Walgrave, 191–218. Devon, UK: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  29. Wippman, D. 1999. Atrocities, deterrence, and the limits of international justice. Fordham International Law Journal 23: 473–488.Google Scholar
  30. Wringe, B. 2006. Why punish war crimes? Victor’s justice and expressive justifications of punishment. Law and Philosophy 25: 159–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zehr, H. 2005. Changing lenses: A new focus for crime and justice. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Studies in Legal Culture, Faculty of LawUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

Personalised recommendations