The Council and the Court: Law and Politics in the Rise of the International Criminal Court


The International Criminal Court is the most significant development in international justice of the 21st century. The UN Security Council is the most powerful institution in the international legal order. This review essay explores the complex and often contentious relationship between these two bodies via an examination of David Bosco’s excellent recent book, Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics (Oxford 2014). The ICC has over 120 member states, but only two permanent members of the Security Council. We explain the uneven and unusual evolution of the relationship between law and politics with regard to the ICC, and we explore the difficult balance struck between the imperatives of justice on the one hand and, in Bosco’s words, “a turbulent world where power matters” on the other. We describe and analyze how the Council has used — and ignored — the Court when it decides to. Finally, we conclude with some concrete and implementable recommendations for a stronger Council-Court relationship.


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