The International Criminal Court

Authored by: Beth Simmons , Allison Danner

Routledge Handbook of International Law

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  January  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415418768
eBook ISBN: 9780203884621
Adobe ISBN: 9781134113095


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This chapter describes the history and structure of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a permanent court, created in 1998, dedicated to prosecuting individuals for violations of war crimes and genocide. With limited exceptions, the ICC will only hear cases in which either the state where the crime occurred or the state whose national is accused of committing the crime has ratified the ICC treaty. Simmons and Danner argue that the most puzzling question about the ICC is why states created the Court and why any state – particularly those whose leaders may be at risk for prosecution – would join the institution. Based on empirical analysis of the states that joined the ICC in its first 5 years, they advance a tentative hypothesis, developed more extensively elsewhere. They argue that the ICC serves a mechanism by which leaders may make a costly commitment both to the international community and their domestic supporters and opponents to ramp down the level of violence in a civil war setting, thus setting the stage for peaceful resolutions to domestic conflicts. Their evidence suggests that governments in power in countries with weak accountability mechanisms that have recently experienced a civil war are much more likely to ratify the ICC statutes than countries with civil wars that do have relatively strong accountability mechanisms in place. They also find that ICC ratification is associated with interruptions in civil war violence and a somewhat higher tendency for these states to sign peace agreements to address domestic war.

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