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Transnational Crime & the Limitations of Int'l Law - Part 2

Dana E. Brede

There are four types of goals and objectives that are advanced from the creation of International Criminal Court: (1) justice and punishment, (2) deterrence, (3) record-keeping, and (4) the progressive development of international law. So far, practice shows that achievement of the first two goals has been flawed, and contrary to popular opinion, the ICC does not have universal jurisdiction. The ICC’s jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed on the territory of, or by nationals of, states which have voluntarily consented to its jurisdiction. These bases of jurisdiction-territory of the crime and the nationality of the perpetrator- are the most firmly established bases of criminal jurisdiction1. If you are asking what this means for violators of international law who do NOT consent to the ICC’s jurisdiction, then you are thinking like a true criminologist. If our role is to prevent and deter crime at the local and international levels, then we must consider the scope of both domestic and international laws.

Despite a myriad of intergovernmental entities such as Interpol, the UN and the International Criminal Court, as well as various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Amnesty International and Center for Justice and Accountability, there is still not an international law-enforcing body with universal jurisdiction. What would that even look like? To be fully effective, the international criminal justice system must continue its efforts to ensure that courts have the necessary support to dispense justice as fairly, efficiently and effectively as possible2.

Click here for a more in-depth look into the Office of Global Criminal Justice.

Food for thought: In considering international humanitarian law alone, there are countless NGOs and IGOs that have the authority and capability to initiate change in the international community; but what happens when they step on each other’s toes? What has “keeping the peace” looked like in the past? What does it look like now? Perhaps, this only reiterates the complexities that exist in the international system. In theory, each organization works in conjunction with the other. In reality, each entity acts as its own unilateral branch and, in my opinion, inhibits the necessary progress to lasting international peace. The estimate of 170 million dead in over 250 conflicts that have occurred since World War II is a grim testament to the failure of the international community to create a viable mechanism to prevent aggression and enforce international humanitarian law3.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or rather ISIS/ISIL, rose to prominence after spring boarding off of an al-Qaeda-affiliated group back in 2013. They have a notorious history of brutality throughout the regions of Iraq and Syria. With the recent execution of American journalist, James Foley, and the worldwide attention it brought, they show no indicators that they will stop committing atrocities. Groups like ISIS do not pause or flinch at NGOs and IGOs that declare them violators of international humanitarian law. So again, the question comes down to - who holds them accountable? U.S. airstrikes can only do so much to mitigate the threat.

Food for thought: Do you think the establishment of a global police force would put a dent in combatting transnational crime? Why or why not?

I don’t have a rock solid plan for how to stop transnational organized crime. Perhaps, more multidimensional tactics on the part of the United Nations, in conjunction with other international policy organizations, could initiate a more tangible means to mitigate and lessen transnational threats and criminalized behavior (as it relates to transnational organized crime). Through combined multilateral efforts via the ICC, ICJ, UN and the UN Security Council, and examining the strengths and weaknesses of past and present peacekeeping initiatives, we can better combat the threats the 21st century is facing. Playing a critical role in the international community, every international organization has made major strides through various tribunals, conventions and policy. In my humble opinion, they seem to fall short in the prevention and deterrence of future threats and crime on a grand scale. More consistency may be critical in all levels of international government, to put their best foot forward in combating global threats and crime in the international arena.

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1 Kirsch, P. (2007). The Role of the International Criminal Court in
Enforcing International Criminal Law. American University International Law Review. Retrieved on August 20, 2014 from http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1129&context=auilr

2Kirsch, P. (2007). The Role of the International Criminal Court in
Enforcing International Criminal Law. American University International Law Review. Retrieved on August 20, 2014 from http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1129&context=auilr

3Janis, M. W., Noyes, J.E. (2006). International Law: Cases and Commentary. (3rd Edition). American Casebook Series. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Company.