Whiting offers views on the International Criminal Court’s impact

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Is the International Criminal Court succeeding? According to Assistant Clinical Professor Alex Whiting, the answer is a tentative yes. Nevertheless, Whiting—who serves as the investigation coordinator in the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC—provided a candid portrait of the court’s strengths and weaknesses at a talk on Wednesday, Oct. 10, sponsored by the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program.

Ever since Luis Moreno-Ocampo stepped down as chief prosecutor of the ICC and was succeeded by Fatima Bensouda last December, Whiting said, his office has been thinking a great deal about what it means for the court to succeed.

“We’re trying to figure out what the question means, rather than trying to figure out the answer,” Whiting said. Still, he argued that success can be broken down into three evaluative categories: how it functions, its impact and its ability to deter future violence.

It could take decades before a deterrence effect is observable in the world, Whiting said, but there are already indicators that the court is contributing to norms against criminal conduct. For example, modern leaders charged by the ICC have made greater efforts to conceal their crimes: Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia used coded language and hid evidence in an effort to cover their tracks, Whiting said, contrasting their acts to the “quite brazen” Nazi crimes tried at Nuremberg.

“I see, perhaps because I want to see them, hopeful signs that international criminal justice is driving criminal conduct to the margins,” he said.