In the Court's Shadow. International Criminal Tribunals and Domestic Accountability 

Oxford University Press, 2023

International criminal justice is still reflexively associated with high-profile international cases, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin. However, whether it be in Ukraine, Colombia or the Democratic Republic of Congo, national courts now prosecute far more suspects for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Not only does the ICC play a backup role in these and many other countries, its track record of just a handful of convictions over a twenty year period stands in stark contrast to the former tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, which prosecuted hundreds of cases in the same amount of time. How did domestic accountability come to eclipse the dream of international criminal tribunals? And what are the effects of this shift from international to domestic trials for the global fight against impunity? 

To answer these questions, my book examines the causes, rationales and consequences of what I call the complementarity turn – a paradigm shift toward national trials as the ultima ratio or end goal of international criminal justice. While domestic justice is now celebrated as superior to proceedings in The Hague and international prosecutors and judges use the principle of complementarity to foster cooperation with government actors, I argue that too much deference by international civil servants toward states reduces the likelihood of accountability and may enable national elites to consolidate authoritarian power. Drawing on research and interviews in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sierra Leone, the book develops a tripartite framework to analyse how states and tribunals work with or despite one another, and advocates more dynamic interactions between international and domestic stakeholders to strengthen the enforcement of international criminal law. 

Anticipating the ongoing debates over the interplay of domestic, international and hybrid trials in Ukraine, the book is also an appeal to reflect more critically on the field's new conventional wisdom that ‘the future of international criminal justice is domestic’, while underscoring the need for further research on the merits and drawbacks of both international and national accountability initiatives. 

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Credits: The text on this webpage reproduces extracts from the publisher's webpage, the OUP Blog and the Conversation.