The creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998, hailed in a triumphant language, was to finally usher in an era of accountability for atrocity crimes and an end to impunity of such crimes of concern to the international community. Two decades later, that optimism is waning and even the supporters of the ICC have publicly aired their frustration. Amidst a string of high-profile acquittals of defendants, flawed investigations, dismissed charges, lengthy proceedings, and controversial rulings, it has become clear that the Court has not lived up to its promise. Why is it that the ICC seems able to deliver justice only on behalf of states rather than for victims and communities affected by atrocity crimes? International courts operate in a world made primarily of states, which try to leverage the legal institutions and processes, in pursuit of their political and security interests. Even states that do not wield global power are able to use international courts in pursuit of those interests, while the international justice project reframes its mission as delivering “justice for victims”. Moreover, as calls to “fix” the Court gain ground, the broader question of the imperial and the liberal world order that sustain the international justice project remain at the margin of the deliberations.
About the Speaker: Oumar Ba is an assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College. His primary research agenda focuses on international criminal justice norms and regimes, and the global governance of atrocity crimes. He also studies worldmaking and visions for and alternatives to the current international order, from Global South perspectives. He is the author of States of Justice: The Politics of the International Criminal Court (Cambridge University Press, 2020). His publications have appeared in scholarly journals such as Human Rights Quarterly, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, African Studies Review, Journal of Narrative Politics, Africa Today, and African Journal of International Criminal Justice.