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PLoS One. 2014 Jun 26;9(6):e99064. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099064. eCollection 2014.

Crimes against humanity: the role of international courts.

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  • 1Instituto de Física, UFRGS, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.
  • 2Instituto de Física, UFRGS, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil; Programa de de Pós-Graduação em Economia, Escola de Gestão e Negócios, Unisinos, São Leopoldo, RS, Brazil; Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia de Sistemas Complexos, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil.
  • 3Centro Atómico Bariloche and Instituto Balseiro - CNEA, CONICET, 8400 S. C. de Bariloche, Argentina.


We study the role of international tribunals, like the International Criminal Court (ICC), as an effective way of reducing the number and/or gravity of crimes against humanity. The action of the ICC is directed against leaders that promote or tolerate these kinds of crimes, that is, political authorities, army commanders, civil leaders, etc. In order to simulate the action of the ICC we build a hierarchical society where the most important leaders have the highest connectivity and can spread their points of view, or their orders, through a chain of less but still highly connected deputy chiefs or opinion chieftains. In this way, if they practice misconduct, corruption, or any kind of discriminatory or criminal actions against individuals or groups, it would very difficult and improbable that they will be prosecuted by the courts of their own country. It is to alleviate this situation that the ICC was created. Its mission is to process and condemn crimes against humanity though a supranational organism that can act on criminal leaders in any country. In this study, the action of the ICC is simulated by removing the corrupt leader and replacing it by a "decent" one. However, as the action of the corrupt leader could have spread among the population by the time the ICC acts, we try to determine if a unique action of the ICC is sufficient or if further actions are required, depending on the degree of deterioration of the human rights in the hypothetical country. The results evidence the positive effect of the ICC action with a relatively low number of interventions. The effect of the ICC is also compared with the action of the local national judiciary system.

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