Elaborating Justice for Victims at the International Criminal Court: Beyond Rhetoric and the Hague

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Justice for victims has often been invoked as the raison d’être of international criminal justice, by punishing perpetrators of international crimes. This article attempts to provide a more holistic account of justice for victims by examining victims’ needs, interests, and rights. The International Criminal Court itself includes participation, protection and reparation for victims, indicating they are important stakeholders. This article also suggests that victims are integral to the purpose of the ICC in ending impunity by ensuring transparency of proceedings. However, there are limits to the resources and capacity of the ICC, which can only investigate and prosecute selected crimes. To overcome this justice gap, this article directs the debate towards a victim-orientated agenda to complementarity, where state parties and the Assembly of State Parties should play a greater role in implementing justice for victims domestically. This victim-orientated complementarity approach can be achieved through new ASP guidelines on complementarity, expanding universal jurisdiction, or seeking enforcement and cooperation through regional and international bodies and courts, such asUniversal Periodic Review or the African Court’s International Criminal Law Section. In the end, ifwe are serious about delivering justice for victims we need to move beyond the rhetoric, with realistic expectations of what the ICC can achieve, and concentrate our attention to what states should bedoing to end impunity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-311
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of International Criminal Justice
Issue number2
Early online date16 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • International Criminal Court
  • Victims
  • Assembly of State Parties


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