Pensky's presentation takes up the issue of the purpose and future prospects of international criminal law. Since the mid-1990s, international criminal law has gained dramatically in profile, prestige and influence, culminating in the advent of international criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court. In the policies and practices of the United Nations and the larger international human rights organizations, a new norm of anti-impunity has emerged in tandem with these new international institutions. Battling impunity, resisting a culture of impunity, or closing the "impunity gap" has become a near-universal goal of international human rights efforts. But what is impunity, and why is it bad enough to justify the project of continuing and expanding international criminal justice?
The presentation argues that a narrow conception of the battle against impunity - punishing perpetrators of serious international crimes - is inadequate to justify a future for international criminal law. A broader conception - providing accountability - is currently too vague to be of real help. The presentation offers a more precise conception of accountability based in deliberation, the public giving and taking of reasons. This conception helps redefine international criminal justice as part of a broader effort to advance border-crossing deliberative institutions. Redefining international criminal justice in this expanded way may help support what now appears to be a flagging project. But whether it is compatible with international criminal justice's status as a branch of criminal law remains an important and open question.