Mirjan Damaška


The first part of the article discusses the goals international criminal courts have set for themselves. The author believes that these goals are too numerous, that they are often in conflict, and that the courts are not well suited for the achievement of some of them. This situation generates disparity between the courts' aspiration and achievement, a degree of disorientation, and difficulty in assessing the courts' performance. Disillusionment stemming from unfulfilled expectations, and inconsistencies springing from disorientation, are harmful to any system of justice, and especially to international criminal courts whose legitimacy is still fragile.

In the second part of the article, the author explores ways in which this particular weakness of international criminal justice could be overcome, or at least alleviated. Two main avenues of improvement are recommended. Some proclaimed objectives, the author maintains, should be abandoned or played down, and a goal should be selected as over-arching so that tension among the remaining objectives can be better managed. Having proposed that a didactic function be accorded pride of place, the author then examines several salient problems that this particular choice would entail.

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