Ethics & International Affairs Volume 21.2 (Summer 2007): Features (Peer-Reviewed): Crime and Punishment: Holding States Accountable [Abstract]

Jun 1, 2007

Should states be held responsible and punished for violations of international law? The recent ruling by the International Court of Justice that Serbia cannot be held responsible for genocide in Bosnia reflects the predominant international legal position. But, such a position leaves open the possibility that states or non-state agents can never be held responsible for international crimes. This article argues that they can and should be. While most international ethicists and legal theorists reject the punishment of corporate entities such as states, this article argues that certain types of international violations can only be undertaken by states, and, as a result, states must be bear the responsibility for them. Drawing on some neglected strands in international law and political theory, the article sketches a potential institutional framework for the punishment of state crimes, particularly genocide and aggression.

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