Can International Criminal Court (ICC) interventions in ongoing conflicts help curtail war crimes and civilian abuses that are being actively perpetrated? The court has increasingly intervened in such cases, partly with the intention of using its prosecutorial power to stop ongoing abuses. Yet, while much has been said about the court's potential for deterrence, little attention has been devoted to its compellent effects. Drawing on insights from the literature on coercive diplomacy, strategic bargaining, and civilian victimization, this article clarifies and critically assesses the logic of ICC compellence in cases of ongoing civilian violence. I argue that some forms of ICC intervention have compellent potential but are inherently limited. Specifically, I show why threats of prosecution, rather than actual indictments, are far more likely to be effective at curtailing violence, but also how their effective application is highly constrained by the court's own core normative principles, rules, and structures. While some see the main problem as weak enforcement-something that can be remedied with greater political will-there is a more fundamental impediment: to compel effectively, the court must carefully coordinate its actions with other states' diplomatic and military efforts or allow itself to be used strategically by states pursuing diplomatic and military measures to curtail violence- positions that are incompatible with the court's statutory obligations and its very ethos as an independent and impartial nonstate judicial institution.

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International Studies Review
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs

Mendeloff, D. (2018). Punish or persuade? The compellence logic of international criminal court intervention in cases of ongoing civilian violence. International Studies Review, 20(3), 395–421. doi:10.1093/ISR/VIX042