My new book, Saving the International Justice Regime: Beyond Backlash Against International Courts is coming out with Cambridge University Press in Fall 2021.
Overview and Rationale
Created in the aftermath of World War II and revived and reimagined after the fall of the Soviet Union, international human rights and criminal courts are designed to promote accountability for human rights abuses and atrocity crimes; to promote domestic policy change; to serve as deterrents to future violence; and to weave together the fabrics of peace and justice. Opponents of international justice see the courts’ aims in a different light. They decry international human rights and criminal courts as symbols of Western bias and argue that international human rights and criminal tribunals are inefficient, illegitimate, and ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of global politics. The critics’ opposition to international courts can take a number of different forms, ranging from high-profile withdrawals from international judicial institutions to subtler bureaucratic and budgetary maneuvers that can bankrupt and handicap international tribunals.
While resistance to international courts is not new, what is new, or at least newly conceptualized, is the politics of backlash against these institutions. Saving the International Justice Regime is at the forefront of this new conceptualization of backlash politics and brings together theories, concepts and methods from the fields of international law, international relations, human rights and political science to pose—and answer—three questions related to backlash against international courts.
- What is backlash and what forms does it take?
- Why do states and elites engage in backlash against international human rights and criminal courts?
- What can stakeholders and supporters of international justice do to meet these contemporary challenges?
This book is unique in the literature on backlash against international courts because of its interdisciplinary theoretical framework, multi-method approach, global empirical scope and emphasis on both the human rights and criminal law regimes. Saving the International Justice Regime is written for scholars, advanced students and policymakers interested in understanding how and why the international justice regime is under threat and what to do about it. In addressing these questions, Saving the International Justice Regime dialogues with contemporary research in human rights, international law, international relations and political science. In doing so, this book makes a set of key contributions, including:
- Providing a definition and typology of backlash against international human rights and criminal tribunals that is widely applicable.
- Offering an interdisciplinary, multi-pronged theoretical framework that guides the discussion of backlash politics across a broad scope of empirical cases and that sets a research agenda for the future.
- Generating a set of concrete policy recommendations to help international justice stakeholders safeguard international human rights and criminal tribunals.
The international justice regime includes a set of international criminal and human rights courts. The former, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), hold individuals accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The latter, such as the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), hold states accountable for the human rights abuses they perpetrate against their own citizens and address a range of civil, political and socio-economic rights. While the idea of backlash against both types of these international courts has gained traction in recent years, the current thinking and scholarship on the topic has, until very recently, stopped short of providing a conceptual framework for understanding what backlash is, how and why it happens and what can be done to shore up the international justice regime.
Saving the International Justice Regime addresses these gaps and advances the scholarship on international human rights and criminal tribunals in a number of ways. This book begins from the premise that scholars and stakeholders alike must shift their thinking about backlash away from individualized examples of “bad behavior.” Instead, it conceptualizes backlash as a systemic problem that can only be understood by examining comparative case studies contextualized within larger political debates at the nexus of international and domestic politics. As such, Saving the International Justice Regime is expansive in both its understanding of the international justice regime and its empirical scope. For example, Saving the International Justice Regime covers both the international human rights and criminal law regimes. While these legal regimes are, of course, distinct and built on separate, but related, bodies of law, they are facing similar contemporary challenges. Working across these legal regimes can help both scholars and practitioners better understand the phenomenon of backlash.
Moreover, Saving the International Justice Regime is global in its empirical scope. It focuses on the European and Inter-American human rights systems, as well as the ICC, with an emphasis on the ICC’s work in Africa. Saving the International Justice Regime also understands backlash politics as spanning both the domestic and international spheres and considers how the nexus of international and domestic politics can be both the site and source of backlash. By touching upon three continents and nearly a dozen countries, Saving the International Justice Regime illustrates that backlash politics is a global trend that requires a clear definition, typology and analytical framework to understand.
Courtney Hillebrecht, “Advocacy and Accountability in the Age of Backlash: NGOs and Regional Courts” in Contesting Human Rights, Alison Brysk and Michael Stohl, eds. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2019.