Dawn L. Rothe, Isabel Schoultz

International Criminal Justice: A Deterrent for Crimes of the State?

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Criminology is not just focused on explaining the etiological factors behind crime commission; ultimately the goal is to find and empirically assess policies to control it. A criminology of the State is no different. Over the course of the past two decades, a growing number of scholars of State crime have devoted attention to and research on the issues of controls, yet, there have been relatively few articles that solely focus on the issue of international criminal justice and its ability, or lack thereof, to have a deterrent effect. However, many actors within the field of international criminal justice have heralded the deterrent power of the international criminal justice system and its ability to remove impunity for violations of international criminal law. Likewise, many practitioners and scholars routinely assume a probability at best, to an assumption of sureness, of a powerful deterrent effect for those in high ranking positions, including heads of State, that violate international criminal law. This article examines the potential deterrent effect of international criminal justice, as it pertains to State crime, which is grounded in criminological insights. To do so, we present an overview of the common assumptions of and criminological thinking in deterrence models. This is followed by highlighting those factors most strongly associated with a deterrent effect with State criminality and international criminal justice. The article concludes with a critical examination of the potential of deterrence and how it fails to generate the effects for heads of State and other high ranking officials which so many international public actors, including the international criminal justice system, claims.

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