Saturday, 9 January 2010

Deterrence and the International Criminal Court

We often debate whether international criminal justice has a deterrent effect. On Thursday, at the Lubanga trial, United Nations special envoy on child soldiers Radhika Coomaraswamy told the Trial Chamber I: ‘The willingness on the part of the Court to prosecute these cases has sent many armed groups to us - the United Nations - willing to negotiate 14 action plans for the release of children; most recently yesterday in Nepal where the release of 3,000 children is about to begin today.’ (Transcript, p. 16, 7 January, available at: This is a good example of the International Criminal Court influencing future conduct and not merely punishing those deviants who had the misfortune to get caught.

1 comment:

mc said...

Great news - but important to note that there may also be a shadow side to this. Per Human Rights Watch:

"[A]t the time of our field mission there, militia leaders in Ituri appeared to be changing their approach to child soldiers because of the charges against Lubanga. Previously, these leaders openly admitted approximate numbers of children in their ranks and handed children over to the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as part of the demobilization process. Following the confirmation of charges against Lubanga, however, many denied having any children under their command. [...] Children were hidden or chased from the ranks, and some were abandoned rather than being brought to the demobilization ceremonies, which is concerning." (Courting History,, at 68-9)

In other words, the situation does not appear to be as straightforward as Ms. Coomaraswamy makes out. There are hidden complexities that must be addressed.