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Human Rights and International Criminal Courts: Recent Publications by Geoffrey Dancy

Assistant Professor Geoffrey Dancy has recently published multiple articles on human rights prosecutions, the International Criminal court and surrounding debates. He is also working on an article entitled “Deals with the Devil? Conflict Amnesties, Civil War, and Sustainable Peace,'' for International Organization. See below for abstracts and links to his work.

"Searching for Deterrence at the International Criminal Court"

Does the International Criminal Court (ICC) deter acts of violence in the world? To answer this question, this article first distinguishes between three phenomena that are often confusingly grouped together under the heading of ‘deterrence’. These include the termination of ongoing civil wars (compellence), the prevention of atrocity crime recidivism (specific deterrence), and the overall prevention of war and atrocity crimes (general deterrence). The article then assesses whether state commitments to the Rome Statute and ICC intervention in specific contexts can promote these three aims. It presents evidence that the ICC can indeed contribute to violence prevention, though not because of its ability to sanction abusive actors. Instead, the Court’s role as a ‘stigmatizer’ in the international community has likely contributed to declines in certain types of violence over time. As such, the article concludes that the ICC is more important for what it is than what it does. International Criminal Law Review 17(4): 625-655 (2017).


"The Difference Law Makes: Domestic Atrocity Laws and Human Rights Prosecutions"

This article offers the first systematic analysis of the effects of domestic atrocity laws on human rights prosecutions. Scholars have identified various political and sociological factors to explain the striking rise in human rights prosecutions over the past 30 years, yet the role of domestic criminal law in enabling such prosecutions has largely been unexamined. That is surprising given that international legal prohibitions against human rights atrocities are designed to be enforced by domestic courts applying domestic criminal law. We argue that domestic criminal laws against genocide and crimes against humanity facilitate human rights prosecutions in post-authoritarian states by helping to overcome formal legal roadblocks to prosecution, such as retroactivity, amnesties, immunities, and statutes of limitations. Using original data on domestic atrocity laws and human rights prosecutions in new democracies, we find that atrocity laws increase the speed with which new democracies pursue prosecutions, as well as the overall numbers of trials they initiate and complete. (with Mark S. Berlin) Law & Society Review 51(3): 533-566 (2017).

Read More on the Wiley Online Library.

"Measuring the Impact of Human Rights: Conceptual and Methodological Debates"

Fifty years ago, the world had very few human rights laws and very little information on human rights violations. Today, the situation could not be more different. The world is awash in laws and indicators of legal violations, and two perspectives have developed to explain their relationship. The factualist approach measures whatever information is available, however imperfectly, and assumes that the resulting indicators are valid representations of the theoretical concepts of interest. The constructivist approach reminds us that these processes are not independent and that a science of law and human rights is fallible. Though the conclusions from these perspectives diverge radically, they agree on a central notion: that international human rights law has contributed very little to social progress. We disagree and offer an alternative, constitutive approach that both accepts the critique of indicators and offers a way forward that encourages scholars to treat measurement itself as an object of theorizing and inquiry. (with Christopher J Fariss), Annual Review of Law & Social Sciences 13:273–94 (2017).


"Unintended Positive Complementarity: Why International Criminal Court Investigations May Increase Domestic Human Rights Prosecutions"

This article shows that International Criminal Court investigation in a country situation is correlated with increased domestic human rights prosecutions in the intermediate term. Using evidence from Africa, the article argues that this relationship results from a “willingness game” between ruling coalitions attempting to feign commitment to human rights norms and reformer coalitions, who use the onset of ICC investigations as an opportunity to engage in human rights litigation. This link between ICC investigation and domestic criminal prosecutions, unanticipated by Court employees and unexamined by scholars, is evidence that the ICC may have some surprising impacts. (with Florencia Montal), forthcoming, American Journal of International Law (2017).

Read More on the Social Science Research Network website.

"The impact of criminal prosecutions during intrastate conflict"

The International Criminal Court’s interventions have prompted debate about the wisdom of criminally prosecuting combatants while attempting to build peace in conflict-ridden societies. Previous research fails to distinguish between different types of trials. Using a large-N dataset of three types of criminal trials undertaken during internal conflict – domestic security trials of rebels, domestic human rights trials of state agents, and international war crimes trials of both – this article tests a theory of the compellent effect of criminal prosecution on conflict termination. We find that, even when accounting for endogeneity, rebel trials are associated with a higher probability of conflict termination, while trials of state agents are weakly associated with conflict persistence. We argue that the former compel the opposition to discontinue fighting, while the latter signal to rebels a lack of government resolve. We also find that the effect of international trials, which at times appear weakly associated with conflict termination, is endogenous to international intervention more generally. (with Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm) Journal of Peace Research (online first, 2017).

Read More on the SAGE journals website.