Punishment of Serious Human Rights Violations by Changing Internal Moral Codes

Katherine Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The modern era has awoken a period of extreme terror used both by states and against them to attack peoples or their way of life. Modernity also gave rise to human rights, humanitarian ideals and with the rule of law; a growing belief in the power of law to deliver safety and justice. Unfortunately, neither internal state nor international law has yet delivered a just system of dealing with these problems. Even when called to account punishment falls short of what many expect. Law and punishment have been unable to deal with the fractured locus of power and legal requirements and the torn moral allegiance that often accompany human rights atrocities. International law fails to deliver either retribution or deterrence. Law (international and state) and punishment need to search for a different focus, one designed to sustain and promote human rights, one which might restore communities and individuals back into the rights family. Duff’s expressive theory of punishment offers a solution. It expects clear and wide condemnation of atrocities to be expressed whilst guiding perpetrators to face their moral guilt, to publically repent and improve their moral standing so permitting reintegration into the international community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-195
Number of pages22
JournalState Crime
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2013


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