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Prof. Rajkovic will present a paper that discusses the Rome Statute and its 'gravity' threshold as a synonym and antonym of penal accountability.

Event details of Constitutional Blasphemy and Liminal Crisis? (ACIL Lecture)
Date 16 November 2016
Time 16:00 -17:30


In this lecture, the speaker interrogates the Rome Statute and its ‘gravity’ threshold as a synonym and antonym of penal accountability, by looking critically into the sociological and doctrinal sources that have served to reify and venerate a circumscribed catalogue of international crimes. Specifically, Prof. Rajkovic will engage Durkheimian sociology for the purpose of complementing existing doctrinal critiques that have identified a sizable conceptual and policy void within the Rome Statute’s seminal gravity threshold. Such an interdisciplinary move, according to the speaker, highlights a politics of ruling morality that subtly naturalizes, under the cover of doctrinal determinacy, an economy of what grave international crimes are and should be.

The speaker’s argument works between sociology and doctrinal analysis in three steps. First, Emile Durkheim is reintroduced to international lawyers for his scrutiny of crime and penal law as producing and reflecting a society’s sacred outrages. Second, that Durkheimian insight is then used to scrutinize how the Rome Statute’s gravity threshold operates as a kind of semantic and notably sacramental barrier; mobilizing religiosity to informally and morally cage what is a narrow, and increasingly questioned, catalogue of international crimes. Finally, we connect how the veneration provided by formalization and doctrinal standardization has both empowered an elite lawyer class and provided symbolic infrastructure for this caging effect. The key implication being that a techno-doctrinal ethos displaces a constitutional one, which dulls capacity for public reflection on whether incumbent international crimes remain consistent with an evolving scale of global solidarity as well as more contemporary register of ‘shocking’ international crimes.

About the speaker

Prof. Nikolas Rajkovic is Professor and Chair of International Law at Tilburg University. His research addresses the question of how international organizations, states, and non-state actors compete to impose different types of international legal rules in an increasingly globalized world.


Faculty of Law, University of Amsterdam

Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, Room A101


The ACIL regularly organizes ACIL Lectures at which external speakers present papers relevant to research carried out at the ACIL. ACIL Lectures are open to all; registration is not required.