Cosmopolitanism and the Need for Transnational Criminal Justice

The Case of the International Criminal Court

in Theoria
Author: Patrick Hayden
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Writing in the aftermath of Adolf Eichmann’s dramatic prosecution in 1961 for his role in the Nazi genocide, Hannah Arendt suggested that the ‘need for a [permanent] international criminal court was imperative’ (Arendt 1963: 270). For Arendt, Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem symbolized the unfortunate triumph of national interests over the demands of universal justice. In Arendt’s analysis, the Eichmann trial was flawed for a number of reasons, most notably because the Israeli government rejected the possibility of establishing an international criminal tribunal, claiming for itself the competence and jurisdiction for trying Eichmann. In the end, Arendt notes, the failure of the Israeli court consisted of the fact that it represented ‘one nation only’ and misunderstood Eichmann’s crimes as being inherently against the Jewish people rather than against humanity itself, that is, ‘against the human status’ (Arendt 1963: 268-270). As the subsequent occurrence of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes in countries as diverse as Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and East Timor starkly testifies, the relevance of a permanent international criminal court to contemporary world politics and international relations is undiminished more than 40 years after the Eichmann trial.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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