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date: 20 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses a communicative advantage for ‘defiant defendants’, otherwise known as the ‘inequality of arms reversed’. A common critique of international criminal justice is that international criminal trials, when faced with high-profile and charismatic defendants, are basically doomed: either they silence the defendant’s political rhetoric and become show trials, or they let the defendant speak of the bias and inconsistencies in their institutional set-up, thus equally imperilling their legitimacy. This chapter argues that international criminal courts are not doomed by the reverse inequality: the communicative outcomes of international criminal trials remain contingent. For instance, prosecutors can make arguments that are politically and culturally attuned to local audiences. Moreover, the procedure of the trial can influence the defendant’s attitude. This chapter contends that it is possible for prosecutors and judges to acknowledge the political dimension of international criminal processes without turning them into show trials. Indeed, it is desirable for judges and prosecutors to confront the politics of the defendant head on.

Keywords: International criminal law, Fair trial, Politics in court, Legitimacy, Equality of arms, Procedure, international criminal justice

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