Global Constitutionalism
Political Conflict

Improving global accountability: The ICC and nonviolent crimes against humanity

Author(s): Eamon Aloyo
Date: October 7, 2013
Publication Type: Journal Article
Research Topics: Political Conflict

Overview:

Scholars have proposed a number of different ways to improve global accountability, but none has adequately addressed how individuals who commit widespread or systematic nonviolent wrongs can be held to account. I argue that for moral reasons individuals should be held accountable for nonviolent crimes against humanity and that an existing legal institution, the International Criminal Court (ICC), has the authority to prosecute such crimes. The ICC’s prosecutor should start exercising this legal authority because widespread or systematic nonviolent harms can be just as morally wrong as violent ones. What matters on my account is the gravity of a wrong, not whether it was committed violently or nonviolently. I situate these arguments in contemporary discussions of accountability, and provide evidence that individuals can cause widespread or systematic nonviolent harms that meet the legal definition of a crime against humanity in the Rome Statute, the ICC’s foundational document.

Key Findings:

  • Some non-violent mass harms such as purposive mass starvation can be just as morally wrong as violent mass harms. 
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) can and should prosecute individuals who commit such non-violent wrongs under its article 7 on crimes against humanity.
  • The ICC should do this only under certain circumstances, given its scarce resources.
  • A range of non-violent mass killings qualifies as R2P triggers.

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