Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mark Drumbl's new book, Atrocity, Punishment, and International Criminal Law

Kevin Jon Heller, over here at Opinio Juris, has a capsule summary of a new book that I look forward to reading, Mark Drumbl's Atrocity, Punishment, and International Criminal Law, out from Cambridge UP. Professor Drumbl is someone for whom I have considerable respect, and I am quite certain this book merits close attention. From Opinio Juris:

The book defends two interrelated claims: (1) there is a fundamental difference between the “extraordinary” crimes that are punished at the international level (genocide, crimes against humanity, etc.) and the “ordinary” crimes that are punished at the domestic level (murder, rape, etc.); but (2) international law nevertheless assumes that extraordinary crimes can be effectively prosecuted through the same institutional structures used for ordinary crimes. As Mark writes, "[i]nternational criminal justice largely is operationalized through criminal tribunals. Courtrooms have gained ascendancy through adversarial third-party adjudication, conducted in judicialized settings, and premised on a construction of the individual as the central unit of action." Mark rejects this “liberal-legal” model of international criminal law; in his view –- and this is the central thesis of his book –- "the preference for criminalization has prompted a shortfall with regard to the consideration and deployment of other legal, regulatory, and transformative mechanisms in the quest for justice," such as truth commissions, legislative reparations, and (what will no doubt be the most controversial aspect of the book) collective civil sanctions.

Mark knows that I do not agree with everything in the book. That said, Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law is a must-read for all international law scholars and practitioners. International criminal tribunals have reproduced almost virally over the past two decades, from the ICTY to the ICC to the various hybrid courts. It is thus critical to question, as Mark does, whether those institutions are capable of fulfilling their central purpose –- putting an end to impunity. Such skepticism is largely absent from international law debates. I hope that Mark's book will make it less so.

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