Narratives of Violent Conflict in International Criminal Jurisprudence
General Catalog Course Title:
Rhetoric in Law and Politics
Terms Offered:
Spring 2016
Spring 2012
Course Thread: 
Law & Humanities
van Tuyl, Penelope
Esmeir, Samera

It has been said that, in order for a society to move forward after experiencing mass atrocity, it must first acknowledge the truth of what happened, through trials, truth commissions, and other “transitional justice” methods.To this end, ad hoc and hybrid international criminal tribunals established over the last two decades have been expected to reach beyond simple accountability for perpetrators. Donor states have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into these institutions on the hope that they will also promote reconciliation, restore the rule of law, help secure a lasting peace, and establish an authoritative historical record of past events.In this seminar, students will consider how effective international criminal tribunals actually are at fostering reconciliation and historical memory through the publication of “judicial truth.” We will take a critical look at the historical narratives of violent conflict found in international criminal tribunal judgments, and we will explore the various institutional forces that shape the final account, including the rules of procedure and evidence, jurisdictional limitations in the Statute, the investigative practices of the prosecution and the defense, and the financial administration of the court. How much insight do these trials give us into why and how perpetrators commit acts of mass atrocity? How does the narrative differ from those produced by truth commissions, scholarly publications, or journalistic reporting? What accounts for the differences?

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