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Constructing Humanity’s Conscience: Violence, Victims, and the Practice of Justice in the Congo

  • Author(s): Dixon, Peter John
  • Advisor(s): Evans, Peter
  • Fourcade, Marion
  • et al.

The International Criminal Court is a deeply divisive international organization. To some, it is the political pawn of neocolonial states; while for others, it represents hope for millions of victims of the world’s gravest crimes. The autonomy and authority of international justice, however, remain poorly understood. In this dissertation, I examine the social conditions of power in the international justice field, focusing on the nexus between the ICC’s organizational development and its interactions with communities in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ituri, a small and relatively unknown corner of northeastern Congo, is where the ICC has pursued its first trials and will soon implement its first reparations orders for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Contrary to notions of victims as a mere rhetorical or symbolic concern of global governance, I argue that victims have been central to the ICC’s struggles to consolidate its autonomy and overcome fundamental sources of illegitimacy, both from the states whose sovereignty it threatens and the communities whose interests it claims to represent. To manage these threats, the ICC has come to depend on a variety of victim-centric practices, the majority of which ultimately serve its institutional interests while reinforcing local cycles of violence. At the same time, the ICC has displayed remarkable flexibility in crafting creative responses to victims that can serve as models for the practice of justice in the future. Ultimately, this analysis clarifies the social conditions of autonomy in fields of global governance, highlighting the productive practices that shape their authority and their relationship to vulnerable populations.

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