15 December 2017

New research project: The creation and effects of international criminal law

The DFF has granted 2,269,223 DKK for a new research project led by Associate Professor Mikkel Jarle Christensen.

Can you describe your research project with one sentence?

The project investigates the creation and impact of international criminal law by critically studying the environments and markets in Western countries where this kind of law is being produced.

Can you briefly describe what you have done and how you did it?

The project is based on a number of previous publications as well as a rethinking of how the processes and struggles that characterize the development of international criminal law can best be studied critically and empirically. Thus, the project is both an extension and a challenge of previous research, including my own. The funding from the DFF enables a collective research team to collect and systematize new and original data on the production of international criminal law.

Why is this particular project interesting/how does the research contribute to something new?

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, international criminal law has become the cornerstone of the global efforts to prosecute war crimes committed in a number of conflicts, the most famous of which is the civil war in former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda.

So far, scholarship far focused mainly on the extent to which international criminal law has been successful in prosecuting those responsible for crimes committed in these and similar conflicts. In addition, scholarship has focused on whether and how the courts created since the 1990s have had an impact on conflict zones. A central question has been whether the courts have positive effects, especially if they have contributed to creating peace, justice and reconciliation. CrimPact turns this perspective around, and contributes a critical analysis of the stakeholders and environments in Western democracies where international criminal law is being produced. These environments are located far from conflict zones - typically in London, The Hague, New York and Paris – and together form a market for international criminal law organized around special ideas and services.

The core idea of CrimPact is that the global effect of international criminal law cannot be understood by focusing exclusively on the courts' impact in conflict zones, but it is rather closely linked to the creation of a new market. This market manages the resources invested in international criminal law and develops its ideas and technologies. In order to understand how international criminal law has evolved and in what direction this field is moving, critical research must begin here.

By analyzing the market of interests that has arisen around international criminal law, CrimPact will provide a groundbreaking study of how this area of law has struck roots in Western countries. These countries have been the main contributors to the development of international criminal law since the 1990s. The status of the new market in these countries is fundamental to the global distribution, impact and future of international law, and thus also for this form of law’s potential effect in conflict zones worldwide.

What effect can the project have on the non-scientific community (what can it change)?

By focusing on the market behind the fight against war crimes, the project will provide new knowledge about some of the more hidden processes that characterize international criminal law. The project will therefore be of interest to some of the stakeholders who characterize this legal field - the same stakeholders the research project will study. Such stakeholders include, of course, the international criminal courts, but also human rights NGOs, think tanks, private law offices, various media outlets, academic research centers, national investigators and diplomats working on international criminal law. These stakeholders collectively compose what I call the market and constantly cooperate and compete to define international criminal law and its reach. With its change of perspective from conflict zones to market, the project will contribute new knowledge about how and why these stakeholders disagree on important issues of international criminal law. This knowledge can serve as a basis for these stakeholders to better assess the impact of their support for various initiatives in the fight against war crimes.

What are the next steps in the project?

Time will tell. The funding from the Independent Research Fund Denmark (DFF) is a good start.