Crime and Global Justice: The Dynamics of International Punishment, by Daniele Archibugi and Alice Pease

| March 2019
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Crime and Global Justice book coverCrime and Global Justice: The Dynamics of International Punishment, Daniele Archibugi and Alice Pease (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 2018), 288 pp., $69.95 cloth, $24.95 paper, $19.99 e-book.

Nestled into the crowded field of scholarship on international criminal justice is this new book from Daniele Archibugi and Alice Pease. The authors survey familiar territory—the emergence, development, and operation of the system of international criminal justice—but they nicely distinguish their contribution by electing to use case studies to tell their story, focusing on the indictments, trials, and convictions of well-known heads of state. Within these case studies, Archibugi and Pease emphasize actors such as international courts and tribunals, but they also reference the role of national courts, civil claims, and “justice from below” (truth commissions, reintegration ceremonies, and opinion tribunals). Throughout, the authors tie these institutions to theories of cosmopolitanism, while also ruminating upon the failures that have afflicted global justice—primary among these being the co-optation of justice institutions by powerful political players.

Crime and Global Justice has many virtues. To begin, it offers an accessible panoptic view. It is also refreshingly punchy: in a pugilistic sense, in condemning states that have both created and hobbled the system of global justice; and in a journalistic sense, in that it is neatly punctuated with accounts of crimes and defendants—and of prosecutions and verdicts—that engage the reader. In addition, the language is clear and captivating. For example, the description of the emergence of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a “creation in regalia” (p. xvi) is particularly compelling. Finally, the authors reference films about international criminal justice and weave cinematography into the text—an engaging move that is both illuminating as well as illustrative of the variety of ways by which to relate and narrate both violence and transition.

That said, the book’s expository value on the legal front is somewhat crimped by peculiar language that appears here and there. The discussion of Rwanda, for example, drifts into problematic stereotypes when the authors present the Hutu and Tutsi as “tribes” (p. 25) and make reference to the “atavistic reasons for the fierce rivalry” between the two groups (p. 184). Similarly, at the Tokyo Tribunal the five judges who wrote dissenting or separate opinions were not from “neutral powers”—they were from Australia, France, India, the Netherlands, and the Philippines—and were subject to political machinations, including in some cases by their home governments (notably the Dutch justice, Bert Röling). Moreover, the Filipino justice, Delfín Jaranilla, had personally survived the death march at Bataan, which was later recognized as a war crime, making him far from “neutral.” And Justice Radhabinod Pal, from Bengal, whose dissident judgment has been heralded as radical and reconstitutive, “represented” India (that is, “British India” at the time, an India in transition), from which 87,000 soldiers died in World War II, including in the Pacific theater. What is more, although Archibugi and Pease characterize retribution as the “first and most obvious goal of international criminal justice” (p. 41), each international criminal tribunal has consistently affirmed deterrence and retribution as co-equal goals, hence positing (perhaps impossibly) that the punitive system can be equally consequentialist and deontological.

Archibugi and Pease may also oversell the promise of the ICC somewhat. They posit that “governments must be stripped of their exclusive jurisdiction with regard to judging and punishing political crimes” (p. xviii). They encourage the ICC, which has convicted three individuals since it began functioning in 2002 (a fourth convict, Jean-Pierre Bemba, was ultimately acquitted on appeal in June 2018 on all substantive charges), “to become bolder, both in the way it carries out its institutional mandate and in the running of the prosecutor’s office” (p. 173). Yet the authors never really tell the reader why they have so much faith in and enthusiasm for the ICC. So we are left wondering: Can the ICC, with its sloped shoulders and shuffling steps, really achieve the tremendous ambitions that the authors place upon it?

Perhaps the most interesting angle Archibugi and Pease explore is their idea that advocates of global justice “must move away from a purely inter-governmental mind-set” (p. 180). In reading such a statement it is worth remembering that the ICC was created by states, is funded by states, and that states nominate and vote on its judges. If we move away from the inter-governmental mind-set, what do we move toward? The authors gesture toward a global civil society, thereby invoking a more libertarian theory of transitional justice. What might this look like? Might it be transitional justice that eschews command and control strategies, that shies away from “best practices” and “blueprints” and “boilerplates”? Might it be transitional justice that embraces the wisdom of the “street,” the insights of the moment, and the benefits of the informal? Such a move would be revolutionary indeed, but it would also distance us from global cosmopolitanism and direct the conversational energy (and authenticity) to how lives are actually lived at the local level.

Notwithstanding the occasional conceptual shortcomings and glitches, Crime and Global Justice can serve a dynamic classroom role, particularly in the hands of an instructor who can provide context, and especially when it comes to placing international courtrooms within a cosmopolitan theoretical framework.

—Mark A. Drumbl

Mark A. Drumbl is the Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and director of the Transnational Law Institute at Washington and Lee University. He is the author of Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law (2007) and Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy (2012), and is co-editor of  The Research Handbook on Child Soldiers (forthcoming).

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Category: Book Review, International Law and Human Rights, Issue 33.1

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