Written by  Laura Clarke


The creation and consolidation of an international human rights regime following the end of World War II was a triumph not least in the apparent bypassing of state sovereignty as an overriding principle of international relations. However, underwriting this new regime is the necessary compromise between the supremacy of the nation state and internationalism that gives momentum to the human rights movement. The international rights regime is predicated on this highly sensitive and volatile balance. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has made the compromise explicit through codification of the complementarity principle, balancing domestic and international dimensions of norm enforcement. Article 17 of the Rome Statute triggers the ICC’s complementary jurisdiction in situations where the State is deemed “unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.” The purpose of complementarity is “to preserve the power of the ICC over irresponsible states that refuse to prosecute nationals who commit heinous international crimes, but balances that supranational power against the sovereign right of states to prosecute their own nationals without external interference. The ICC’s complementarity doctrine is an attempt to pacify concerns that the Court could exercise unchecked dominance over States parties and be manipulated as a political weapon against opponents

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About the Author

Laura Clarke - M.Sc. Human Rights Candidate, London School of Economics; Global Research Fellow, 2012, St. John’s University School of Law; First Class M.A. International Relations, 2011, University of St. Andrews; Professor Paul Wilkinson Award winner, 2012, University of St. Andrews. The author would like to thank Professor Margaret McGuinness and the faculty at St. John’s University School of Law for their comments and suggestions.






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