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The Role of Domestic Opposition and International Justice Regimes in Peaceful Transitions of Power


Journal of Conflict Resolution

Published online on


This article considers how international criminal justice administered by the International Criminal Court (ICC) affects the possibility of negotiated, peaceful transitions of power in autocracies. We argue that a strong international criminal tribunal can deter dictators’ decisions to peacefully relinquish their power. It does so when the dictator in question has faced a relatively violent opposition, one that was ready to strike a deal with the dictator promising him amnesty in exchange for stepping down. Facing an opposition that "has skeletons in its closet," the dictator will peacefully exit his office only under a weak ICC regime. We use a cross-national time-series data set spanning 1998 to 2007 to test our theory and find that under a weak ICC regime, the more skeletons the opposition has in its own closet, the more likely is the dictator to peacefully step down from office. Interestingly, this relationship holds, to a large extent, across various levels of dictator’s culpability. If the ICC is strong, the number of skeletons the opposition has in its closet has, for the most part, no effect on the dictator’s likelihood of stepping down.