What is a "grave" international crime? The Rome Statute, Durkheim and the sociology of ruling outrages

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientific


This article 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 venerate a circumscribed catalogue of grave international crimes. Specifically, I engage Durkheimian sociology to complement existing doctrinal critiques that have identified a conceptual and policy void within the Rome Statute’s seminal gravity threshold. Such an interdisciplinary move, I argue, highlights how a politics of ruling outrages naturalize, under the cover of doctrinal determinacy, an economy of grave versus non-grave (international) crimes. My 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 any society’s outrages. Second, this Durkheimian insight is then used to scrutinize how the Rome Statute’s gravity threshold relies, in part, on symbolic power and sacral appearance to border jurisdiction on what grave crimes are and should be. Finally, we discuss how this sociological and symbolic infrastructure produces a caging effect, because it dulls capacity for reflection on whether international criminalization, under its gravity regime, remains connected to an evolving register of outrages and a more contemporary catalogue of grave crimes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalLoyola University Chicago International Law Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'What is a "grave" international crime? The Rome Statute, Durkheim and the sociology of ruling outrages'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this