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In the wake of the atrocities committed in Cambodia, southern Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Haiti, many in the international community have called for the creation of ad hoc or standing international criminal courts to deal with some types of international delicts. Courts are indispensable institutions in many domestic criminal and civil systems, and any polity, no matter how structured, must have arrangements, of varying degrees of institutionalization, to apply the law to concrete cases. But lest we fall victim to a judicial romanticism in which we imagine that merely by creating entities we call "courts" we have solved major problems, we should review the fundamental goals that institutions designed to protect public order seek to fulfill. Goal clarification is especially important when our passions are engaged, as indeed they should be, upon encountering atrocities such as those of Rwanda. Indignation can be a powerful and productive source of political energy, but only if we tap it to stimulate the design of institutions that protect, restore, and improve public order.
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