The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) shared a common moral foundation in cosmopolitanism and both have their roots in the post-1945 human rights agenda. These institutions of liberal international society challenge the absoluteness of state sovereignty by supervising and enforcing the protection of human rights on behalf of international society. They however exercise this protective function in different ways. R2P provides a framework through which states can respond to potential or occurring mass atrocity crimes with both non-forcible and military means. In contrast, the ICC’s primacy function is to prosecute and try those individuals alleged to have committed mass atrocity crimes after the fact through a politically-independent judicial mechanism.
The shared aims of these institutions has resulted in them being viewed as complementary processes which can be used in tandem to address gross human rights abuses. However, the different ways in which they go about seeking to achieve this shared objective has given rise to tensions in their relationship. This is encapsulated in the peace vs justice debate and can be seen in the international response to 2011 Libya crisis where both the R2P and the ICC played a role. Further research is required to better understand how these processes relate, where the tensions manifest and how they can be resolved.
R2P and the ICC are also subject to similar critiques and forms of contestation. For example, both institutions have been labelled as neo-colonial and portrayed as undermining state sovereignty. In addition, both are subject to political forces, particularly given the central role that the UN Security Council plays in relation to both institutions, and have prompted backlash by rising powers. More research is needed to interrogate the basis of their shared challenges and looking at them together can help us to better understand the threats posed to the sustainability of liberal international society in a new global political landscape.
Research papers and recent publications in this area:
Fisher KJ, Stefan CG (2019) ‘Canada and the International Responsibilities to Protect and Prosecute in Cases of Mass Atrocity’. In: McGrane D; Hibbert N (eds.), Applied Political Theory and Canadian Politics. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, pp. 459-479
Ralph J. (2016) The International Criminal Court. In: Bellamy AJ; Dunne T (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect. Oxford University Press
Aloyo, E. (2013). “Democratizing Transitional Justice: Transitional Tradeoffs and Constituting the Demos.” Global Society. 27 (4): 438-453.
Aloyo, E. (2013). “Improving Global Accountability: The International Criminal Court and Nonviolent Crimes Against Humanity.” Global Constitutionalism. 2 (3): 498-530.
Ralph, J. (2016) ‘The International Criminal Court’ in A, Bellamy and T. Dunne (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect, (OUP 2016)
Ralph J; Gallagher, A. (2015) ‘Legitimacy Faultlines in International Society: The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute after Libya’, (2015) 41(3) Review of International Studies 553-573
Ralph, J. (2015) ‘Symposium: International Criminal Justice and the Responsibility to Protect’, (2015) 26(1) Criminal Law Forum 1-12
Stefan, CG. (2016) “The Ethics of International Criminal ‘Lawfare’” International Criminal Law Review Vol. 16, Issue 2, pp. 237-257 (with Kirsten Fisher).
Wand, D. (2016) ‘South Africa’s Withdrawal from the International Criminal Court: A Time for Reflection’, (EUR2PE Blog, 27th October 2016)