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Criminalizing Atrocity: The Global Spread of Criminal Laws against International Crimes, Mark S. Berlin

Reviewed by Kyle Rapp

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Why, when political leaders can have little to gain and much to lose, do states include atrocity crimes in their domestic legal codes? International atrocity law—prohibitions of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—depends on domestic implementation. But why do states, especially authoritarian ones, choose to include these prohibitions in their domestic legal codes, especially when there has been little international pressure to do so?

These are the questions that Mark Berlin sets out to answer in Criminalizing Atrocity by exploring two ways that states may introduce atrocity laws: through targeted legislation or as part of a wholesale reform of their legal codes. While targeted legislation, passing a stand-alone law covering atrocity crimes, may explain cases in which preferences are reform-friendly—namely, democracies with strong human rights practices—it can still result in false negatives, cases in which we may expect to see criminalization but do not, and it does not address cases in which leaders may be opposed to the legislation.

While Berlin addresses targeted legislation in Chapter 4, he primarily focuses on the second pathway, arguing that legal code reform creates unique conditions conducive to codifying atrocity crimes into law. In particular, Berlin advances a “technocratic legal borrow

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