Author:Gerhard Anders (University of Edinburgh)
Paper short abstract:
Opinions about international war crimes tribunals are divided: hailed by their proponents as milestones in the development of global order they are often criticized as thinly disguised instruments of Western hegemony. Drawing on ethnographic evidence my contribution will interrogate these claims.
Paper long abstract:
International criminal justice is a rapidly expanding field of international law. Several tribunals have been established to deal with massive human rights violations and contribute to national reconciliation after armed conflict. Whereas international lawyers hail these tribunals as milestones in the development of universal legal order a growing number of critics draw attention to the dark sides of international humanitarianism. Proponents and critics, however, fail to appreciate that international criminal law, in spite of its universal and abstract character, is the product of concrete social processes in specific places and sites.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone offers an interesting case for the study of the local conditions under which international criminal law is made. My fine-grained ethnography of knowledge practices at the Special Court suggests that the court has a much more precarious position than the Manichean image of the neo-colonial humanitarian apparatus suggests since it is a site of contestation and competition, both in the national political landscape and the transnational arena. My analysis shows that international war crimes tribunals such as the Special Court play a crucial role in advancing the idea of a cosmopolitan legal order using sub-Sahara Africa as a laboratory of sorts.
Law matters: mapping legal diversity