Punishing Genocidaires: A Deterrent Effect or Not?
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More than sixty years after the seminal Nuremberg trials, different forms of transitional justice mechanisms abound around the world. Above all, the International Criminal Court started recently the hearings in its very first case. Reading the document containing the charges against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a militia leader accused of horrendous war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the question of why to punish perpetrators of atrocity crimes seems almost ludicrous. However, concerns that international prosecutions inadvertently prolong or even exacerbate conflicts do require a response. Most proponents of international criminal tribunals argue that prosecutions have a deterrent effect. This article reviews the deterrence argument, highlights its inherent complexities, and proposes a refined approach to meet both the realities of atrocity crimes and international prosecutions.