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date: 09 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter is a critique of international criminal law (ICL) from the point of view of transitional justice, interrogating the former’s increasingly hegemonic role in relation to the latter. International criminal ‘legalism’, as this chapter argues, diverts attention from broader, emancipatory, social justice aims to address rights of victims or the structural, systemic dimensions that fuelled mass violence. It points out that the goals of transitional justice have always been framed more broadly, whereas ICL’s own goals are, at least nominally, much narrower (punishing individuals) and somewhat detached from their social finality. Yet for all its limitations, ICL does continue to command a high degree of authority, even within the field of transitional justice itself. This is in no small part because transitional justice is grounded in a rights-based approach that is itself committed to accountability. The chapter then tests this argument by looking at the Darfur crisis. It ends with a note of skepticism about the power of legalism, beyond its undeniable contribution to upholding the rule of law, to formulate an emancipatory social project.

Keywords: Human rights law, International criminal law, International law, Legalism, Sudan, Transitional justice, United Nations Security Council, Victims

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