Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 October 2015
In international criminal tribunal discourse, appeals to history and legitimacy are omnipresent. This article addresses the widespread practice of combining these appeals into one narrative. It analyses how international prosecutors engage with justifying the legitimacy of trials through the invocation of a tribunal's own history. The scrutiny of such ‘auto-histories’ as a specific form of history-telling illuminates an overlooked dimension of trials as fora for writing history. The opening statement is a perfect opportunity for constructing and communicating auto-histories. A comparative study of opening statements at the International Military Tribunal, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Court reveals a recurrent, self-justifying narrative where both rootedness in history and a break with the past are key to singing the tribunal into existence as a crucial mechanism in the transition from chaos to peace. The connections between auto-histories at different tribunals show how legal practitioners discursively contribute to constructing the international criminal law's identity by relying on both origins and future.
R. H. Jackson, ‘Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal on 21 November 1945’, in The Trial of German Major War Criminals: Proceedings of The International Military Tribunal Sitting at Nuremberg, Part I (1946), 49 at 51.
2 Prosecutor v. Norman, Fofana, and Kondewa, Opening Statement of the Prosecution, Case No. SCSL-04-14-T, T.Ch. I, Transcript of 3 June 2004, at 7 [hereinafter Norman Opening Statement].
3 Koskenniemi, M., ‘The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, in Alfredsson, G. and Eide, A. (eds.), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Common Standard of Achievement (1999), 27Google Scholar at 27 and 30. Koskenniemi observes that the narrative of justification in modern political institutions refers to origins, struggles, and ideals that led to the current status. Steinitz argues that by enacting a conversation about its ‘mythical beginning’ and by ‘preserving the story of origin’, courts generate their own legitimacy and preserve their authority. See Steinitz, M., ‘“The Milošević Trial—Live!” An Iconical Analysis of International Law's Claim of Legitimate Authority’, (2005) 3 Journal of International Criminal Justice 103CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 108.
4 On justifying rationales in ICL, see Tallgren, I., ‘The Sensibility and Sense of International Criminal Law’, (2002) 13 EJIL 561CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Many different goals besides deterrence and retribution have been put forward in legitimizing international courts and tribunals. These goals are, unlike the goal of strengthening legitimacy, often to be found outside the tribunal itself; trials and punishment potentially can educate the public, strengthen social cohesion, and enforce norms and values. See, e.g., Amann, D. M., ‘Assessing International Criminal Adjudication of Human Rights Atrocities’, (2000) Third World Legal Studies 169Google Scholar, at 175; M. A. Drumbl, Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law (2007), 174. On the expressive value of punishment, see particularly Sloane, D., ‘The Expressive Capacity of International Punishment: The Limits of the National Law Analogy and the Potential of International Criminal Law’, (2007) 43 Stanford Journal of International Law 39Google Scholar.
6 R. A. Wilson, Writing History in International Criminal Trials (2011); L. Douglas, The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust (2005); M. Osiel, Mass Atrocity, Collective Memory, and the Law (1999); Cassese, A., ‘Reflections on International Criminal Justice’, (1998) 61 Modern Law Review 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Amann, supra note 4, at 175; Drumbl, supra note 4, at 174. There is also a strand of thought, following Hannah Arendt, that explicitly rejects a trial's role in writing history for it should solely focus on the judgment of the defendant. See H. Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1964).
7 Wilson, supra note 6, at 2; Koskenniemi, M., ‘Between Impunity and Show Trials’, (2002) 6 Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 33. While historical narratives are inherently selective, trials appear to produce an even more restricted version of the past. The IMT was for example criticized for its focus on perpetrator's common plan, thereby downplaying the suffering of the Jews. See Koskenniemi, at 21; Douglas, supra note 6; Amann, supra note 4, at 179; Sellars, K., ‘Imperfect Justice at Nuremberg and Tokyo’, (2010) 21 EJIL 1085CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Jackson himself shows an ambivalent position towards writing history. Amann notes ‘an almost palpable desire to establish the record of World War II’. Amann, supra note 4, at 176. King notes that Jackson was ‘extremely conscious of the value for future generations of the Nuremberg record – the historical account of the worst regime in recorded human history’. See King, H. T. Jr., ‘Robert Jackson's Vision for Justice and Other Reflections of a Nuremberg Prosecutor’, (1999) 88 Georgetown Law Journal 2421Google Scholar, at 2433. Jackson himself is more cautious, see infra note 21.
9 J. B. White, Heracles’ Bow: Essays on the Rhetoric and Poetics of the Law (1989), 169; C. Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays by Clifford Geertz (1973), 448.
11 Glasius, M. and Meijers, T., ‘Constructions of Legitimacy: The Charles Taylor Trial’, (2012) 6 International Journal of Transitional Justice 229CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 231; See also Meijers, T. and Glasius, M., ‘Expression of Justice or Political Trial?: Discursive Battles in the Karadžić Case’, (2013) 35 Human Rights Quarterly 720CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
12 Luban, for example, claims that the centre of gravity lies in the trial itself, not in its aftermath. Luban, D., ‘Fairness to Rightness: Jurisdiction, Legality, and the Legitimacy of International Criminal Law’, in Besson, S. and Tasioulas, J. (eds.), The Philosophy of International Law (2010), 569Google Scholar at 575; See also B. de Graaf, ‘Terrorists on Trial: A Performative Perspective’, (2011) ICCT Expert Meeting Paper; Koskenniemi, supra note 7, at 3.
13 Most research to opening statements has been done in Anglo-American domestic courts. See Snedaker, K. H., ‘Storytelling in Opening Statements: Framing the Argumentation of the Trial’, (1986) 10 American Journal of Trial Advocacy 15Google Scholar; Powell, G. R., ‘Opening Statements: The Art of Storytelling’, (2001) 31 Stetson Law Review 89Google Scholar; Lucas, J. R., ‘Opening Statement’, (1991) 13 University of Hawaii Law Review 349Google Scholar. While opening statements in the international arena share characteristics with domestic opening statements, they differ with regard to content and form in, for example, the lack of a jury and the need to justify the trial's existence. On legal language see J. Gibbons and V. Prakasam, Language in the Law (2004).
14 On the use of opening statements in ICTs, see Vasiliev, S., ‘The Trial’, in Reydams, L., Wouters, J., and Ryngaert, C. (eds.), International Prosecutors (2012), 700CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 748. See also Katanga and Ngudjolo, Opening Statement by Judge Cotte, ICC-01/04-01/07-T-80, T.Ch. II, 24 November 2009, at 72.
15 Many different terms (e.g. international community, humanity, mankind) and understandings of this abstract community have been put forward. For an interesting discussion on this topic, see B. van Beers, L. Corrias, and W. G. Werner, Humanity across International Law and Biolaw (2014); Tallgren, I., ‘Who are “We” in International Criminal Law? On Critics and Membership’, in Schwöbel, C. (ed.), Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law: An Introduction (2014), 71Google Scholar.
16 The opening day at the IMT was at that time the best-covered event by journalists ever. See Feltman, B. K., ‘Legitimizing Justice: The American Press and the International Military Tribunal, 1945–1946’, (2004) 66 Historian 300CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 307. Vasiliev, supra note 14, at 748, also notes the ‘media hype’ on ICTs opening days.
18 See, e.g., Prosecutor v. Milosevic, Opening Statement of the Prosecution, Case No. IT-02-54-T, Transcript of 12 February 2002, at 2–9; Prosecutor v. Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Case No. 002/19-09-2007-ECCC/TC, Transcript of 21 November 2011, at 111–14 and 117; Prosecutor v. Taylor, Opening Statement of the Prosecution, Case No. SCSL-2003-01-T, T.Ch. II, Transcript of 4 June 2007 at 267 and 330–1.
19 D. A. Sprecher, Inside the Nuremberg Trial: A Prosecutor's Comprehensive Account (1999); S. Radlmaier, Der Nürnberger Lernprozess: Von Kriegsverbrechern und Starreportern (2001); Hoffman, P. L., ‘Justice Jackson, Nuremberg and Human Rights Litigation’, (2004) 68 Albany Law Review 1145Google Scholar.
21 Jackson, supra note 1, at 51. Interestingly, on the same page Jackson explicitly regards rendering a full development of the history of the case as a task for historians, not for the trial.
54 Crane currently is a board member of the Robert H. Jackson Center. See https://www.roberthjackson.org/staff/#staff (accessed 11 August 2015).
62 On transcending chaos and transitional justice mechanisms, see, e.g., Stone Peters, J., ‘Literature, The Rights of Man, and Narratives of Atrocity: Historical Backgrounds to the Culture of Testimony’, (2005) 17 Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 253Google Scholar, at 275.
65 See Koskenniemi, supra note 3, on enlightenment after tragedy in the ‘liberal myth of redemption’.
67 See, e.g., D. Bosco, Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court's Battle to Fix the World, One Prosecution at a Time (2014).
68 Prosecutor v. Lubanga, Opening Statement of the OTP, ICC-01/04-01/06-T-107, T.Ch. I, Transcript of 26 January 2009, at 4 and 13 [hereinafter Lubanga Opening Statement].
69 Prosecutor v. Bemba, Opening Statement of the OTP, ICC-01/05-01/08-T-32, T.Ch. III, Transcript of 22 November 2010, at 11 [hereinafter Bemba Opening Statement].
72 Prosecutor v. Katanga and Ngudjolo, Opening Statement of the Victim Representative, ICC-01/04-01/07-T-80, T.Ch. II, Transcript of 24 November 2009, at 44–45 [hereinafter Katanga Opening Statement (Victim Representative)].
73 Lubanga Opening Statement, supra note 68, at 20; Prosecutor v. Katanga and Ngudjolo, Opening Statement of the OTP, ICC-01/04-01/07-T-80, T.Ch. II, Transcript of 24 November 2009, at 22 [hereinafter Katanga Opening Statement (OTP)].
76 Up until now, this victim-centred approach has been portrayed as a novelty. This might change over time when the ICC gains a less ‘novel’ status. On the ICC's victim-centred approach, see e.g., L. Moffet, Justice for Victims Before the International Criminal Court (2014).
77 Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the ICC, ICC-ASP/1/3 (Part.II-A), rule 89(1).
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