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The International Criminal Court on trial

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This article assesses the structure and operation of the International Criminal Court by setting out a case for the defence of the Court, a case for its prosecution and a verdict. Defenders of the Court suggest it has had a positive impact because: it has accelerated moves away from politics and towards ethics in international relations; it goes a long way towards ending impunity; it is a significant improvement on the previous system of ad hoc tribunals; it has positive spill-over effects onto domestic criminal systems; and because the courage of the prosecutor and trial judges has helped to establish the Court as a force to be reckoned with. Opponents of the Court see it as mired in power politics, too reliant on the United Nations Security Council and on state power to be truly independent; failing to bring peace and perhaps even encouraging conflict; and starting to resemble a neo-colonial project rather than an impartial organ of justice. The verdict on the Court is mixed. It has gone some way to ending impunity and it is certainly an improvement on the ad hoc tribunals. However it is inevitably a political body rather than a purely legal institution, its use as a deterrent is as yet unproven and the expectation that it can bring peace as well as justice is unrealistic.

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