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On a Self-Deconstructing Symposium

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Samuel Moyn*
Harvard University
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It is not clear what there is left for a commentator to say once a symposium has unfolded in such a way as to cancel itself out. But in case others read it differently than I do, I am happy to explain how I think this process occurs across the wonderful though self-canceling pages of the American Journal of International Law symposium on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and—through valedictory reflection on thoseenter prises—on contemporary international criminal law so far. The self-cancellation process, as I see it, takes place in the move from creation story and doctrinal evolution to impact measurement amidst legacy rhetoric. One might take this result as an index of where things stand (or whether anything stands) in the fascinating emergence of a prestigious enterprise—and what might come next.

Symposium on the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda: Broadening the Debate
Copyright © American Society of International Law 2016


1 Michael J. Matheson & David Scheffer,The Creation of the Tribunals, 110 AJIL 173, 173 (2016).

2 Karen L. Engle, Anti-Impunity and the Turn to Criminal Law in Human Rights, 100 Cornell L. Rev. 1069 (2015). See more generally Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010).

3 Matheson & Scheffer, supra note 1, at 187.

4 For my own thinking about this history, see Samuel Moyn,From Aggression to Atrocity: Rethinking the History of International Criminal Law, in Oxford Handbook to International Criminal Law (Kevin Jon Heller et al. eds., forthcoming).

5 Compare David Scheffer, all the missing souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals (2011). For preliminary political accounts of two state agendas, see David Bosco, Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a world of Power Politics (2014) or Ronen Steinke, The Politics of International Criminal Justice: German Perspectives from Nuremberg to The Hague (2012).

6 Darryl Robinson & Gillian MacNeil, The Tribunals and the Renaissance of International Criminal Law: Three Themes, 110 AJIL 191 (2016).

7 Judith N. Shklar, Legalism 181, 147 (1963).

8 See Samuel Moyn, Towards Instrumentalism at the International Criminal Court, Yale J. Int’l L. Online 39, 55-65 (Spring 2014).

9 Marko Milanović, The Impact of the ICTY on the Former Yugoslavia: An Anticipatory Postmortem, 110 AJIL 233, 235 (2016).

10 Sara Kendall & Sarah M. H. Nouwen, Speaking of Legacy: Toward an Ethos of Modesty at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 110 AJIL 212, 217 (2016) (footnote omitted).

11 See Kathryn Sikkink, The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions are Changing World Politics (2011) or Hyeran Jo and Beth A. Simmons, Can the International Criminal Court Deter Atrocity?, 70 Int’l Org. 443 (2016); For counterpoint, see Samuel Moyn, Anti-Impunity as Deflection of Argument, in Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda (Karen L. Engleet al. eds., 2016).

12 Milanović, supra note 9, at 235.

13 Kendall & Nouwen, supra note 10, at 213.

14 Id. at 226.