Lunch seminar with James Nyawo

International criminal justice interventions as moral hazards: Testing the deterrent capacity of international and national prosecutions in Central African Republic

Since the Nuremburg and Tokyo tribunals, adherents of international criminal jurisdiction view deterrence as one of the main purposes behind ending impunity for atrocity crimes. Their logic is that through ascertaining individual criminal responsibility for the perpetrators of such crimes the international community would first teach the offenders a lesson and dissuade them from repeating the offense, and second send a clear message to potential offenders of the consequences they face if they commit similar crimes. Put differently, the argument is that the international community can prevent atrocity crimes through punishing perpetrators. The key assumption behind the deterrence theory is that potential offenders undertake a balancing act, weighing the possible risks and benefits of violating international and national laws on international crimes. The existing evidence shows that war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression continue to be committed seven decades after the Nuremburg Trials. This raises questions about the deterrent capacity of international and national prosecutions. This paper uses a case study approach to test the effectiveness of international and national prosecutions in deterring atrocity crimes. The Central African Republic has been purposefully selected for this research considering that, since its independence, it has been marred by chronic political instability which includes military rule, a litany of coup d’etats, widespread and systematic violations of human rights and commission of atrocity crimes. In response, the international community has intervened through the International Criminal Court and also encouraged the establishment of a Special Criminal Court to end impunity. The presence of private security actors also raises questions about the role of international criminal justice in holding such entities accountable for the violations of human rights and war crimes. The interventions have not prevented the commission of atrocity crimes in the Central African Republic. This is attributable to many factors including the limited capacity of such interventions to arrest and prosecute offenders in situations with systemic instability and ongoing armed conflict and violence, which means there is lack of certainty and immediacy, for offenders to be punished. This sends wrong perceptions to the general public on the effectiveness of punishment from the international and national criminal interventions, hence atrocity crimes continue to be committed unabated. The paper concludes that with triggering of international and national criminal jurisdictions for atrocity crimes without effective enforcement plans to arrest and prosecute those involved, the chances of success are slim.  Judicial interventions have become an easy escape route for international and national authorities, providing an excuse from assuming the real responsibility of restoring sustainable order and rule of law in the Central African Republic.   

Speaker bio

James Nyawo is a Lecturer of International Law and International Relations at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya. He holds a doctorate from Middlesex University, UK, which investigated the dynamic relationship between the International Criminal Court and African States, and the claims that the International Criminal Court was biased against African personalities and leaders. James has maintained his research interest in the enforcement of international criminal law and justice by domestic, regional, hybrid and international mechanisms in Africa, publishing a book and several book chapters. He also holds a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Programme Management from Liverpool University and has over ten years experience as a humanitarian practitioner having worked for the United Nations and Civil Society Organisations in conflict affected regions with refugees and internally displaced persons in  in Angola, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan and Zambia.

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Meeting ID: 649 2172 4328
Passcode: 287152