Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


International Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Minju Kwon

Second Advisor

Dr. Gordon Babst

Third Advisor

Dr. Andrea Molle


How do the United States and China legitimize their position regarding United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referrals to the International Criminal Court (ICC)? Existing literature addresses that states seek to gain and maintain legitimacy. However, there is an overall lack of attention given to how state representatives frame key decisions to legitimize the state's stance and if there are correlations between cases. Filling the gap in literature, this project examines how states legitimize their position on referrals to the ICC as permanent members of the UNSC and identifies a pattern in how they do this. Referring to the legitimacy competition within international institutions and the relationship between states and institutions, I argue that the United States and China are competing to be the dominating international power and use their status as permanent members of the UNSC to reinforce their legitimacy. I conducted case studies on six situations that the UNSC considered for referral to ICC through content analysis of UNSC resolutions, UNSC voting records, UNSC provisional verbatim records and press briefings to identify a pattern in their legitimation. Empirical findings show that China and the United States use concerns over sovereignty and jurisdiction while simultaneously reinforcing their concern for human rights violations to legitimize their position regarding UNSC referrals to the ICC. My in-depth case study on the Yazidi Genocide demonstrates that China is not involved in this case and that while the United States has voiced the need for accountability for the Genocide, it has not drafted a referral to the ICC.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Saturday, August 30, 2025