Border violence as crime

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As the violence of borders has increased since the beginning of the century, advocates have started to employ the language of anti-impunity. This discourse aims to frame border violence as a crime, often as a mass atrocity. This Article is the first to identify and critically assess this type of response. It offers a comparative multi-regional analysis to analyze the turn to criminal law as it has figured in attempts to enforce the rights of refugees and migrants. After defining the anti-impunity project, the Article analyzes anti-impunity in the context of migration to Australia, Europe, and the United States. It then proceeds to evaluate this trend in light of recent literature, which has been critical of anti-impunity and “the turn to criminal law” in human rights. Critics of anti-impunity have argued, in the context of a broad range of human rights campaigns, that the criminal law vocabulary diverts attention from underlying structural issues, including economic inequality. This Article presents a defense of the criminal law framing of border violence, as one instrument within a broader toolbox of strategic litigation, and of transformative political action. I argue the atrocity framing, common to contemporary progressive movements around the world, is an attempt to employ criminal law to counter violence rooted in global inequality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-736
Number of pages62
JournalUniversity of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 University of Pennsylvania Law School. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Border violence as crime'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this