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R2P, The ICC, and Stopping Atrocities in the Real World

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Publication Date: March 2008

Publisher(s): Center for American Progress

Author(s): John Prendergast; Lisa Rogoff

Funder(s): Center for American Progress

Funder(s): Center for American Progress

Topic: Human rights (Human rights promotion and violations)

Type: Report

Coverage: Sudan Sudan Sudan


In the fight to eliminate genocide and crimes against humanity from the face of the earth, we cannot rely on ad hoc responses based on the whims of political will every time a crisis erupts around the globe. At some point, there must be some measure of automaticity associated with our response, built solidly upon principles of international law and hard-earned lessons from previous efforts. To that end, the world has recently seen the birth of two essential pillars in that foundation: the International Criminal Court and the doctrine of the “Responsibility to Protect.”

The “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine holds that states have the responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes, and when they fail, the responsibility falls to the international community. This comes on the heels of the birth of the International Criminal Court, with its focus on prosecuting the most egregious crimes against humanity. The ICC’s principle of complementarity also holds that it is states that have the responsibility to prosecute those responsible for mass atrocity crimes committed within their borders. Only when a state is unable or unwilling to do this will the situation fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Taken together, these two initiatives offer a framework to advance how the world responds to genocide and crimes against humanity.