The Challenge of a Global Standard of Justice: Peace, Pluralism, and Punishment at the International Criminal Court


This Article addresses what is often described as the “peace versus justice” problem, as it confronts the recently-established International Criminal Court (ICC). The problem typically arises when the threat of prosecution would derail peace negotiations or deter a tyrant from relinquishing power. If a state then grants amnesty or de facto impunity as the price of peace, should the ICC’s prosecutor bring charges in its stead? This Article analyzes the conflicting claims of peace, pluralism, and punishment in such cases by exploring three fundamental questions: (1) Does justice in the aftermath of crime always require prosecution and punishment? (2) If justice does require prosecution, does this obligation outweigh all other considerations? (3) As a global institution, how much deference should the ICC afford to diverse state approaches to the previous two questions? Given the Rome Statute’s silence on these questions, the ICC will have to develop its own answers, and these answers will help shape the contours of an emerging global standard of criminal justice.