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International Criminal Law in a Retreating World

On April 13, the American Bar Association hosted two panel discussions on the current state and future of international criminal law.

The first panel, moderated by the ABA’s Sara Dill, hosted Janet Benshoof, president of the Global Justice Center and founder of the Center for Reproductive Rights, John Bellinger, former legal adviser of the Department of State, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a partner at Arnold & Porter, and Stephen Lamony, senior advocate for Africa at Amnesty International.

The conversation included a discussion of the expected deterioration of the US-ICC relationship under the current administration. Ms. Benshoof called for zealous advocacy in favor of continuing the Bush and Obama administrations’ trend toward stronger and more open relations with the ICC; Mr. Bellinger added that a point that needs to be stressed is that there are significant shared interests between the US and the ICC. Mr. Bellinger also stressed the need to educate the current administration on prior missteps in US policy toward the ICC.

The second panel, moderated by the ABA’s Michael S. Greco, hosted Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court – the first woman to hold this position – and Ambassador David Scheffer, who served as the first US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes issues and is currently a professor of law.

The conversation included a discussion of Madame Prosecutor’s term and the trajectory of the ICC. She elaborated on policy changes she has implemented as well as strategic developments in the ICC under her leadership, including a strong focus on sexual and gender-based crimes and the protection of cultural and religious property.

Amb. Scheffer presented his perspective on the state of international criminal justice, explaining that international tribunals cannot and should not be expected to function as a deterrent to violence, but as an instrument of justice. Deterrence, he said, is a matter of politics.

The panelists also discussed state cooperation and withdrawal, the mechanisms of international tribunals, the apparent “Africa focus” of the ICC, rules of jurisdiction, and US policy towards the Court.

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) International Criminal Court (ICC) Project is an independent initiative of the ABA Center for Human Rights that advances international criminal justice and US-ICC relations through advocacy, education and practical legal assistance. More information about the ABA’s ICC Project can be found at its website.


Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP – Washington, DC


The American Bar Association’s International Criminal Court Project, the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights, the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section


Ms. Janet Benshoof (President of the Global Justice Center) Mr. John Bellinger (Former Legal Adviser of the Department of State) Mr. Stephen Lamony (Senior Advocate for Africa at Amnesty International) Mrs. Fatou Bensouda (Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court) Ambassador David Scheffer (Former Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues)