McAuliffe on the ICC and “Creeping Cosmopolitanism”

by Kevin Jon Heller

As I was researching a new essay on complementarity, I stumbled across a fantastic article in the Chinese Journal of International Law by Paidrag McAuliffe, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool School of Law. Here is the abstract of the article, which is entitled “From Watchdog to Workhorse: Explaining the Emergence of the ICC’s Burden-sharing Policy as an Example of Creeping Cosmopolitanism”:

Though it was initially presumed that the primary role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) would be a residual one of monitoring and ensuring the fulfilment by the State of its obligations under the Rome Statute, it has over time moved towards a more activist “burden-sharing” role. Here, the Office of the Prosecutor initiates prosecutions of the leaders who bear the most responsibility for the most egregious crimes and encourages national prosecutions for the lower-ranking perpetrators. Since at least 2006, the Prosecutor has committed to a formal policy of inviting and welcoming voluntary referrals as a first step in triggering the jurisdiction of the Court. The judges on the Court have approved these referrals, while the broader academic and activist communities welcomed this more vertical relationship with national jurisdictions and, significantly, have provided the intellectual justifications for it. Burden-sharing, a concept unmentioned at the Rome Conference establishing the ICC, is presented as an unproblematic, natural and organic emanation from the Statute. This article argues that this development was not in fact inevitable or mandated by the Rome Statute. It was chosen, and in justifying this choice, familiar modes of cosmopolitan-constitutionalist treaty interpretation fundamentally premised on the field’s virtue and indispensability have operated to enable a Court established as a residual watchdog to become a workhorse in individual situations by assuming the preponderance of responsibility for combating impunity.

I found myself repeatedly nodding my head in agreement while I read the article, particularly when it discussed how judges, prosecutors, scholars, and activists have relied on ambiguities in treaty interpretation to push a particular activist agenda at the ICC. The article reminds me of the critical ICL scholarship by two of my favourite scholars, Fred Megret and Darryl Robinson — both of whom the article cites quite often.

The article is a must read for anyone interested in the ICC and ICL scholarship more generally. You can find it here.

3 Responses

  1. Baseless perception , with all due respect , and for too many reasons , I shall bother and mention few only :

    The purpose , of the Rome statute , is not to punish them , but:

    Not to let them go unpunished !!

    So , impunity , becomes the most important issue . And how impunity , if not , by getting shield from international and national systems ?

    It means , that for the main purpose , you must internationally , universally act and fight it . So :

    What the author nick names as :cosmopolitan , is in fact , the very basic essence of the court !! Without it , there is no !! And the UN referral doctrine , and requests for full cooperation even from third state , and non state party following such referral , is a conclusive proof for it .

    Even so : lets observe the Rome statute itself , here I quote :

    3. The Prosecutor may:
    (a) Collect and examine evidence;
    (d) Enter into such arrangements or agreements, not inconsistent with this Statute, as may be necessary to facilitate the cooperation of a State, intergovernmental organization or person;

    So , the prosecutor , collects the evidences , like a police man or police investigator , how shall he do it ?? not while using any mean ?? ( legal one of course ) and it is prescribed , , any intergovernmental organization or person even .

    One scroll can’t have it all , it is simply : baseless !!

  2. Thanks, Kevin, for highlighting a very interesting and worthwhile article. I would concur with your assessment. The successful merging of theory with detailed analysis of recent ICC practice is particularly to be commended for adding value to the literature.

    Unfortunately, the publisher’s website is somewhat misleading. Only the first paragraph excerpted above is the abstract. The second paragraph is a block quote, properly attributed in the article itself, to another article which interested readers can find here

  3. Thanks, David. I have deleted the second paragraph.

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