Accepted Paper:

Soft Law for serious crimes: the duty to remember and the liberty of history  


Julie Trappe (University of Heidelberg)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the use of international and national soft law to regulate 'collective memory'.

Paper long abstract:

Dealing with serious crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity is no longer a topic reserved for judges. Beyond individual responsibility and punishment, international and national organisations and institutions have tried in recent years to codify what is roughly understood as 'collective memory' by using soft law. Documents such as the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust (2000), the Resolution on the Need for International Condemnation of crimes of totalitarian communist regimes adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (2006), the European Parliaments Declaration on the International Condemnation of the Franco Regime (2006), the Declaration of the condemnation of the communist regime by the Romanian Parliament (2006), or even some of the French Lois mémorielles (1990-2006) and the Spanish Ley de Memoria Histórica (2007) are all a case in point.

Examining and comparing some of these examples this paper explores the role and effect of such soft law instruments in the process of dealing with serious crimes. Do those moral and political condemnations in a legal framework represent a useful mean of coping with the past by establishing a necessary duty to remember or do they rather violate the 'liberty of history'? To what extent can soft law establish hegemony over interpretation on historical facts and who are the main social actors involved? The paper also aims to scrutinize the way the mentioned soft law instruments are produced and used in a specific political context, considering as well the interference between the national and the international level.

Panel W021
'Soft law' practices, anthropologists and legal scholars