Sunday, August 21, 2011
A critical factor in the success of transitional justice mechanisms has been whether a criminal court is perceived as being legitimate. Where the local population perceives an international criminal tribunal in lacking legitimacy, the prospects for success are grim. Or at least we thought so until this article came along. We may still have something to learn about the perceptions that affect international criminal tribunals and transitional justice.
Stuart Ford of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago has posted on SSRN a new article on the perceived legitimacy of international criminal courts. The article uses social psychology research and applies it to survey data to understand how populations affected by violence perceive the legitimacy of international criminal courts. The article includes case studies from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), the Extraordinary Chambers for the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), and Regulation 64 Panels in Kosovo.
In his article, Professor Ford find that short-term negative perceived legitimacy does not necessarily indicate that a court is failing, but rather shows discord between internal narratives about the conflict and the facts of what actually happened. This discord poses an obstacle to post-conflict reconciliation as it prevents participants from accepting responsibility and cases each group in a conflict to blame others for what actually happened. Professor Ford argues that courts can serve a useful purpose in transitional justice if they can help align the dominant internal narratives within the various affected populations with what actually happened during the conflict.
It's an interesting aritclethat will provide you with some thoughtful commentary on international criminal law.