In Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics, Bosco, assistant professor of international politics and law at American University, analyzes the clash of realism and idealism within the new institution.
How did you become interested in international relations?
I grew up in a family that was fairly obsessed with world politics, and I knew from an early age that I wanted to work in that area somehow; I certainly didn’t expect to enter academia. Working in Bosnia in the mid-1990s introduced me to international criminal justice. While I wasn’t working directly on those issues, the work of the international tribunal had a large impact on the postconflict stabilization and reconstruction efforts. I vividly recall being in Sarajevo when international forces made one of the first arrests of a major war crimes suspect. During the end of my time in Bosnia, the ICC treaty was being negotiated, and I’ve watched its development closely since then.
Is its performance to date the best that could have been hoped for?
The court has been heavily criticized for the length of its proceedings and for stumbles in certain of its investigations. I think that many of these problems were unavoidable. Important questions about the court’s rules and procedures had to be worked through in practice; disputes between the prosecutor and the judges and with defense counsels. At a broader level, the court has been quite successful at alleviating anxieties some powerful states had about the court. The fact that there have been two referrals to the ICC by the U.N. Security Council already is quite remarkable, given that three of the permanent council members aren’t ICC members.
Are concerns of the U.S. and other major powers that the ICC could bring cases against its leaders valid?
There’s always been a theoretical possibility that the court would seek to target the United States, a country that has military forces around the globe and that is engaged in several ongoing conflicts. But I’ve always thought that concern was exaggerated, and the record of the court’s first decade suggests that it was. In my view, the court has gone out of its way to avoid entanglements with the United States and other big powers. It’s not inevitable that this pattern will hold, but the first years have established some important precedents in terms of the kinds of cases the court takes.
Your book is written for a lay audience. What do you want them to take away from it?
I’m definitely not proselytizing in the book. I feel torn about the value of the court myself, so I’m not in a position to serve as an advocate. I do believe the ICC is an important experiment in employing international law, and I would like readers to share my curiosity about the outcome of that experiment. If readers emerge with a better understanding of the complex environment in which the court operates, I’ll be very pleased.