Conflict Actors and the International Criminal Court in Colombia

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To answer the symposium’s thematic question — ‘Who’s afraid of the International Criminal Court?’ — we offer an explanation as to how deterrence might work in the case of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) preliminary examination cases. We argue that, as long as conflict actors are aware of the Court’s influence and wary of the social and political repercussions associated with the broader anti-impunity norm, the Court can exert influence on the conflict actors’ behaviour. We examine and trace these actors’ responses to ICC’s actions during the Colombian conflict, the ICC’s longest running preliminary examination case. The analysis demonstrates that over the course of the conflict’s history, the main belligerents were not necessarily afraid of the Court, but they were aware and wary of the ICC’s influence, and that in turn, this caution reshaped their conflict behaviours and resulted in institutional changes that increased accountability in Colombia. The finding carries implications for the role of the Court in a time when the power of global justice is being questioned.


ICC, international law, international conflict, criminal law

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Journal of International Criminal Justice