Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-4nnqn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-09-29T08:16:13.756Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Legal Equality on Trial: Sovereigns and Individuals Before the International Criminal Court

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2013

Get access


Writing in 1964, Pieter Kooijmans challenged the principle of legal equality of states: it would have to prove its value or be discarded. He also predicted the relevance of the principle for a new subject of international law: the individual. Almost fifty years later, this article reviews how the principle has fared in international criminal law, a field of international law relevant both to states and to the individual. The review shows how the emergence of a more vertical international legal order has weakened the position of the principle of equality between states. The weakening of the principle in the relation between states has in turn affected the equality between individuals, which has contributed to further actual inequality between states. Contrary to one of Kooijmans's scenarios, the emerging international legal order has not diminished the role of the ‘factual conditions of power politics’. Legal questions on permitted differentiations always involve inherently political assessments. For instance, Kooijmans's concept of ‘juridically relevant’ differences requires a determination of which differences are ‘of intrinsic value for the existence of legal order’, and thus a decision on what that order should look like and how it is to be pursued. Moreover, factual conditions of power politics continue to encroach upon the principle of legal equality. Perhaps the principle of legal equality, like the fight against impunity, is more of an ideal than a reality. But the pursuit of the fight against impunity has thus far undermined the fight for more equality.

Part I Legal Equality and the International Rule of Law Essays in honour of Pieter H. Kooymans
Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Instituut and the Authors 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)