In the debate on the (de-)judicialisation of international affairs and the International Criminal Court (ICC) specifically, the distinctions between legality and politics and between state sovereignty and the international remain contested. While realist and legalist approaches discuss the transformation of international politics by international criminal law, sociological and critical-legal perspectives instead highlight the politics of international criminal law. In this contribution, we focus on how the distinctions between (international) law and politics matter, not as substantively opposed spheres, but as boundaries that the ICC itself contingently and flexibly draws when considering particular situations. These meta-politics of invoking and reproducing key boundaries in seemingly technical elaborations of the interest of justice, the scope of its jurisdiction, or the application of complementarity reflect the Court’s particular authority but also its predicament of pushing for an international criminal law serving humanity, rather than states, while reproducing the distinctions between (international) law and politics. We illustrate the Court’s meta-politics by revisiting three recent decisions of the ICC to (not) investigate alleged international crimes committed by British forces in Iraq, by the Taliban, governmental, and US forces in Afghanistan, and by Israeli authorities and Palestinian groups in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
Cite this article
Grzybowski, J., & Dos Reis, F. (2023). After states, before humanity? The meta-politics of legality and the International Criminal Court in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. Review of International Studies, 1-19. doi:10.1017/S026021052300030X