Book review: Beyond Punishment: Achieving International Criminal Justice

Mathieu Deflem
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This is a review of Beyond Punishment: Achieving International Criminal Justice, by Mark Findlay and Ralph Henham, published in Contemporary Sociology 40(2):175-176, 2011.

Also available as PDF file.

Please cite as: Deflem, Mathieu. 2011. Review of Beyond Punishment: Achieving International Criminal Justice, by Mark Findlay and Ralph Henham. Contemporary Sociology 40(2):175-176. 

Beyond Punishment: Achieving International Criminal Justice, by Mark Findlay and Ralph Henham. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. $90.00 cloth. 305pp. ISBN: 9780230222687.
The field of international criminal justice has grown considerably over the past few decades. In fact, though still lagging behind the degree of internationalization of society, various aspects of internationalized criminal justice are arguably among the most researched social issues of the global era. In this book, international criminal justice scholars Mark Findlay and Ralph Henham undertake an analysis of the international criminal court to argue that international justice should be achieved by principles other than punishment. In other words, this book has an explicit normative orientation.

The normative framework that this book spells out is argued to be based on new moralities concerning the interest of victim communities. Rights are invoked that protect victims, but it is thereby emphasized that such rights, in order to be more than mere words, have to be able to be enforced. The authors suggest such rights to be governed by a concern for “humanity,” rather than political domination, and “coexistent rights protection” of both individual and collective rights. Importantly, these rights are not to be bound geographically and thus also extend beyond the traditional (national) contexts of legal sovereignty, for the crimes that are involved have these capacities as well. Additionally, Findlay and Henham view victim rights in such a way that the adversarial orientation of conventional trials would be replaced by a search for a collective form of accountability.

The authors suggest how international criminal trials need to be reoriented to reflect the needs and rights of victims and communities from a pluralistic conception. All participants in the trial need their justice demands reflected. The trial thus becomes more than a quest for retribution. Findlay and Henham suggest how justice professionals and the victim communities and communities of justice can be brought together. The central role of the judge in securing victim access is thereby confirmed. In conceptualizing victim communities, the authors are careful to argue that individual and collective rights need to be balanced. This effort would help towards identifying legitimate victims and their interests on the basis of a sense of communitarian justice.

On a more practical level, the authors advocate a perspective that moves beyond the conventional focus on evidence, suggesting shifts from fact to truth and from adversarial objectives to mediation. Enhanced inclusivity of victim communities in international criminal justice procedures will make them more legitimate. It is understood by the authors than the enhanced role they ascribe to criminal justice professionals would have to be balanced by considerations of accountability. A humanitarian focus on the part of the legal professional would thereby have to be secured. Concrete trial programs have to be developed, so that international trials become effective instruments in securing justice.

The preceding paragraph was a brief summarization of the book under review. Not only is this book guided entirely by a normative orientation unhindered by any kind of grounding in pertinent sociological work or any other relevant social-science literature, it seeks to change the world of international criminal justice as we know it today, on a global scale no less. The authors are not constrained, either intellectually or morally, relying on their perspectives of such sweeping and profound notions as humanity, global justice, legitimate needs, and peace. Yes, Findlay and Henham have taken it upon themselves to save the world, one international criminal justice trial at a time. We may wish them best of luck were it not for the fact that there is no way of knowing if their efforts can be effective, nor even if their endeavor is a sound one. Not a single ground is offered to explain why any of their prescriptions would have to be accepted.

The area of international criminal justice has been fruitfully explored in a multitude of research efforts for quite a few years now. Many questions of international criminal justice are not only socially relevant in our global age, but have also been addressed proficiently on the basis of the standards of social science, especially in the occasionally overlapping fields of criminology and sociology. It is therefore more than puzzling that we continue to be confronted by the kind of normative speculation that is presented in this book and others like it. In the meantime, fortunately, the wheels of social science churn on and serious scholarship on international criminal justice continues to be produced. It is my hope that readers of this journal will be able to get to know and read such work, possibly aided by the editors of this and other journals deciding to have it reviewed.

See other writings on social control and criminal justice.