Understanding the Discrepancy between Aims and Practice in International Criminal Justice: A Critical Perspective

    • Lucca November 2017
    • Presentation speakers
      • Shannon Maree Torrens, Sydney Law School, University of Sydney, Australia


    Modern international criminal tribunals and courts each set out a range of aspirations that are intended to provide guidance in their work. These are laudable goals that focus on motivations such as ending impunity, assisting victims in seeking redress for the crimes that have been committed against them, fair trials and also contributing to capacity building in the post conflict state. This is how the implementation of international criminal justice is conceptualised and how it is communicated through official aspirations. However, in practice these official aspirations have not been adhered to in such an idealistic way. The international criminal justice project has been accused of political interference, judicial bias and of conducting show trials, which represents a stark departure from the official justice aims. This paper finds that this discrepancy between aspiration and practice does exist and seeks to understand why it occurs, identifying the influence of geopolitical factors and hegemonic intent. This analysis is undertaken through the creation and application of a methodological framework comprised of an understanding of international criminal justice as defined through a justice progression. This commences with justice beliefs, then moves on to justice aims, models, techniques and legacies. The practice of international criminal justice benefits from devising new forms of theorising and the development of new frameworks and directions for critical legal theory, which is what this research seeks to achieve through its analysis. In pursuing such an examination and contributing towards theorising in international criminal justice, a better understanding of the relationship between purpose and practice is possible and going forward, reforms can be better formulated.