Victims’ Justice: Legitimizing the Sentencing Regime of the International Criminal Court

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While much has been written about the circumstances surrounding the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), thus far little attention has been paid to the inadequacy of the statutory guidance governing the court’s sentencing regime. This Note will examine the philosophies guiding the punishment of war criminals in an international context, and will argue that only a retributivist approach to sentencing will achieve the implicit and explicit goals of the ICC: to provide justice to the victims of war crimes and to restore the rule of law. A review of sentencing judgments handed down by the ICC’s most recent predecessors, the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, reveals a systematic failure to translate harsh retributive rhetoric into adequate prison sentences. The experience of those tribunals indicates that for the ICC to bring new legitimacy to international humanitarian law, it must adopt mechanisms to ensure that war criminals receive certain minimal punishments and serve out their full sentences.