Human Rights Review

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 285–302 | Cite as

The ICC and the Prevention of Atrocities: Criminological Perspectives

  • Tom BuitelaarEmail author


One of the founding principles of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the prevention of atrocities by punishing those most responsible for them. This paper builds on the literature that has both hailed and critiqued the prospects of the ICC’s ability to deter future atrocities, adding insights from criminology and psychology to enhance the understanding of the ICC’s deterrent capabilities. This will allow for a more careful analysis of how the deterrence process exactly works. The paper then uses these insights to examine the ICC’s experiences over the past 14 years with deterring offenders. The main findings are that, although the ICC can constructively contribute to a normative shift toward accountability and a change in international rules of legitimacy, its prospects for the direct and meaningful deterrence of future atrocities are slim. The current practice of relying on the ICC as a crisis management tool is therefore both unwise and unfair.


Deterrence International Criminal Court (ICC) Criminology Atrocities Conflict management 



The author would like to thank Dr. Eamon Aloyo, Professor Mark Drumbl, Annelein Koot, Dr. Malini Laxminarayan, and Dr. Peter Malcontent, as well as three anonymous reviewers, for valuable feedback on earlier versions of this paper. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Conflict Prevention ProgramThe Hague Institute for Global JusticeThe HagueThe Netherlands

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