Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 283–295

Stateless Crimes, Legitimacy, and International Criminal Law: The Case of Organ Trafficking

Original Paper


Organ trafficking and trafficking in persons for the purpose of organ transplantation are recognized as significant international problems. Yet these forms of trafficking are largely left out of international criminal law regimes and to some extent of domestic criminal law regimes as well. Trafficking of organs or persons for their organs does not come within the jurisdiction of the ICC, except in very special cases such as when conducted in a manner that conforms to the definitions of genocide or crimes against humanity. Although the United States Code characterizes trafficking as “a transnational crime with national implications,” (22 U.S.C. § 7101(b)(24) (2010)), trafficking is rarely prosecuted in domestic courts. It has thus functioned in practice largely as what might be judged a “stateless” offense, out of the purview of both international and national courts. Yet these forms of organ trafficking remain widespread—and devastating to those who are its victims. In this article, we begin by describing what is known about the extent of organ trafficking and trafficking in persons for the purpose of removal of organs. We then critically evaluate how and why such trafficking has remained largely unaddressed by both international and domestic criminal law regimes. This state of affairs, we argue, presents a missed chance for developing the legitimacy of international criminal law and an illustration of how far current international legal institutions remain from ideal justice.


Organ trafficking Trafficking International Criminal Court International criminal law Medical tourism Transjurisdictional offense Black market 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

Personalised recommendations