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PhD defence

Prosecutorial Discretion in International Criminal Justice

  • C.J. Davis
Wednesday 23 February 2022
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof. C. Stahn
  • dr. J.C. Powderly


International prosecutors are the gatekeepers to international criminal justice. They have the sole authority to prosecute people for the most serious crimes at international courts: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Every day, they need to decide which situations to investigate; which crimes to charge; which witnesses to call; whether to negotiate pleas; and whether to appeal.

These decisions, and countless others, breathe life into law by translating it from ideas into action. They shape what international criminal justice is, how it develops, and what it does.

But what do prosecutors consider when making these decisions, and why?

For the first time, Cale Davis's Prosecutorial Discretion in International Criminal Justice cracks open the 'black box' of prosecutorial decision-making. By drawing upon first-hand interviews with current and former senior prosecutors at the highest levels of international courts, Davis shines a light on the motivations and assumptions that drive the practice of prosecuting in international criminal justice.

In particular, Davis demonstrates that prosecutors adopt different roles towards the institutions, people, and concepts they encounter in their work. He shows that three role-identities have shaped prosecutorial decision-making: prosecutors have been norm performers, builders, and guardians. Davis argues that by paying greater attention to the role-identities individual prosecutors adopt, it becomes possible to understand why they make the decisions they do.

PhD dissertations

Approximately one week after the defence, PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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