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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: October 2009

15 - Conclusions and outlook


The chapters in this book emanated from a shared discomfort amongst contributing authors about a mismatch between the current fashionable focus on individual (criminal) responsibility, exemplified by the mushroom of international criminal tribunals, on the one hand, and the dominant role of larger collective entities in situations of system criminality, on the other. The book has sought to reflect on ways to better address the forms and manifestations of system criminality.

In this final chapter, we will recapitulate the dynamics of system criminality as these have been analysed in this book (section I) and summarize the power and limitations of the various forms of international responsibility in regard to system criminality (section II). We then will reflect on two cross-cutting themes: the relationship between the separate forms of international responsibility (section III) and the objectives that we may realistically ascribe to international responsibility in situations of system criminality (section IV). We conclude with some final observations (section V).

The dynamics of system criminality

The search for a more adequate framework of responsibility in regard to situations of system criminality requires an understanding of the dynamics of system criminality. In the first two chapters of this book Kelman and Punch paint a penetrating and disturbing picture of how organizations may breed mass criminality. Whereas Kelman focuses expressly on mass atrocities which are the main topic of this book, Punch widens the scope by showing that the same mechanisms apply for lawful organizations which engage in more colloquial forms of criminality.