Ellis Witcher

Thesis Title:

Third World Approaches to International Criminal Law: The International Criminal Court and the Empire of Law


Dr Richard Collins


This thesis is concerned with developing the normative critique deployed by Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) scholars for use in the context of international criminal law (ICL) research. In doing so, I seek to build on the extant, but still very much inchoate, body of scholarship cohering under the Third World Approaches to International Criminal Law (TWAICL) banner. I will do so firstly by situating a TWAICL approach within the broader corpus of both ‘mainstream’ and ‘critical’ ICL research, and secondly through focused critiques of the international criminal court (ICC) itself. By drawing on insights from both critical international legal theory and postcolonial studies, this thesis seeks to problematise and challenge conventional understandings and theories of international criminal law, with a particular view towards unlocking the emancipatory potential of the field for the ‘Third World’. In developing this approach to ICL, I hope to provide scholars with the theoretical and conceptual foundations for the generation of ICL research more attuned to the relationship between international law and the historic and contemporary forces of imperialism, and to the demands of communities which have traditionally been marginalised in the development of international law and international legal discourses. Taking as its starting context the fractious relationship between the African Union and the ICC, and the limits of the scholarship that proffered analyses of this topic, this project will seek to explore (inter alia): the tensions in the universal aspirations of the ICC (and of ICL more broadly); the structural limits of the substantive principles, doctrines, and norms of ICL (as they are institutionalised in the ICC); and the broader issues facing the operation of ICJ institutions in contexts where resistance to international institutions is increasing but where conventional approaches/methodologies are limited in the analyses they facilitate.



Ellis Witcher is a PhD candidate at the Sutherland School of Law, where he is currently a Sutherland Doctoral Scholar. His research interests fall broadly within the field of international criminal law, and more specifically he is interested in critical approaches to and theories of international criminal justice. His current research is a continuation of work conducted as part of his LL.M which he completed at UCD School of Law. Before coming to UCD, Ellis originally studied history as an undergraduate in Trinity College Dublin, which was followed by a postgraduate diploma in law at the University of Law in London. In addition to his research, Ellis also assists with tutorials for the undergraduate modules in criminal law at UCD.

Presentations and/or Publications: