The increased internationalization of law and the strengthened position of transnational civil society create a need for a criminological research agenda that investigates intersections between legitimacy and representation, punishment and welfare beyond the nation state. This article explores the need for and scope of such a research agenda, and particularly focuses on the potential value of criminological tools in analyses of power dynamics in international and transnational crimes and related legal strategies. We argue that much criminological scholarship is characterized by the application of a bottom-up perspective, a critical perspective on social control and welfare institutions and their practices, and a recognition of the discipline's close relation to and relevance for contemporary criminal justice policies. Drawing on research on conflict-related sexual violence and human trafficking we demonstrate what such a criminological approach entails. In particular we focus on unintended consequences of punitive responses, and the role of NGOs in the formation of criminal policies relating to these fields. We argue that criminology can play a central role in furthering an understanding of global power structures, and suggest important questions such research efforts may engage with.