Today marks the launch of a symposium that I have convened with Jakob Holtermann on Humanity’s blog platform. Entitled Doing Justice to Truth in International Criminal Courts and Tribunals, the symposium should be of interest to readers of Justice in Conflict. Below is the introduction to our opening post, which should give you an idea of the main themes that will be examined:
As the field of international criminal justice has institutionalized over the course of the past 70 years, communities – both local and international – have increasingly turned to international criminal courts and tribunals (ICTs) to serve as arbiters of truth in the aftermath of mass atrocities. In turn, ICTs have acted as epistemic engines, not only creating a large body of jurisprudence on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, but also constructing historical narratives and compiling vast quantities of historical materials concerning the particular episodes of mass violence that fall within their remit.
That ICTs somewhat inevitably perform a truth-telling function is now well-established. Indeed, already as far back as the Nuremberg Trial, Prosecutor Robert Jackson famously proclaimed that “the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow”. Yet, if this is so, less apparent is how the truths that emerge from ICTs should be judged, how they relate to other kinds of truth, and which perspectives and criteria should be relied upon to evaluate judicialised truths in practice.
It is with these questions in mind that we convened the present symposium – a follow-up to a conference we convened at iCourts, Centre of Excellence for International Courts in Copenhagen last year –, bringing together leading scholars from a diversity of disciplinary backgrounds to reflect on the truth-telling function of ICTs. In summarizing their rich and diverse papers, this introductory post identifies three themes in relation to the truths produced by ICTs that emerge from the symposium: first, the extent to which ICT truths are socially constructed; second, the plurality of ICT truths; and finally, the perception of ICT truths and how they relate to the observational viewpoint of the audience.