Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Who says that international criminal trials do not further reconciliation?

According to a recent slate article by Julian Mortenson, a former associate legal officer at the Yugoslav Tribunal, they do – at least among (alleged) perpetrators. Mortenson reports from “Inside the United Nations Detention Unit“ in The Hague where accused from all ethnic groups of the Former Yugoslavia seem to get along quite well . One of the main reasons for this astounding unity, according to Mortenson:
Wrenched away from everything they know, these inmates have been dropped in someone else's country, surrounded by someone else's language, and forced to confront the massed resources of a thousand-person tribunal that they believe exists solely to railroad them into guilty verdicts. Under these alienating circumstances, bunking next door to people who share the same language, who enjoy the same food, who have overlapping traditions and pop-culture touchstones, and who share the same enemy in the tribunal's head prosecutor—all of this can overwhelm whatever ideologies seemed so important when Yugoslavia was ablaze with ethnic passion.
Quite an interesting combination of transitional justice and Schmittian thought, if you ask me :).

(Another interesting insight from the article is that Tim McFadden, the warden of the Detention Unit, seems to really have understood the meaning of the presumption of innocence and its influence on conditions of incarceration.)


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