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Concluding Remarks by Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes

Concluding the seminar ‘Reconciliation v. Accountability: Balancing Interests of Peace and Justice’ in the Peace Palace in The Hague on 29 May 2015, the Chair, Ambassador Anniken R. Krutnes, made the following concluding remarks:

“Allow me try to put forward a few tentative elements of synthesis.

First, we do not empirically know whether criminal justice accountability or truth and reconciliation commissions actually contribute to reconciliation – nor the opposite, that they do not. We may have assumptions, more or less informed by the work of the institutions in question, the socio-political context in which they operate, and the views of those best placed to assess the reconciliatory capacity and effect of the institutions. This seminar has sought to develop and assemble the reasoned opinions of seven recognized experts, to start a more in-depth discourse and process of analysis.

Secondly, as Professor Stahn says in his policy brief: “Reconciliation requires the recognition of a more inclusive common identity. But the criminal trial can provide conditions that facilitate such complex processes. It may signal a rupture with the past that contributes to a process of reconciliation”. This may capture well what many lawyers assume. Judicial truth-telling may also assist in the longer-term emergence of reconciliation, depending on factors such as how representative the cases that are selected and prioritised are, and how well judgements are written.

Thirdly, if indeed we assume that war crimes trials may contribute in some measure to reconciliation, the perceived dichotomy between criminal justice accountability and truth and reconciliation commissions is not viable. Both can, in certain circumstances, contribute towards reconciliation. Recognizing that may have policy implications in specific countries. It may also affect the transitional justice discourse.

Fourthly, when criminal justice for core international crimes meets some basic criteria, several speakers have suggested that it is more likely that the trials will contribute to reconciliation. A number of criteria have been discussed, including sound quality of criminal justice, timely and cost-effective proceedings, appropriately selected and prioritised cases, proper engagement of actors in the territorial States, and independence and impartiality in the administration of justice. Further consideration and discussion of these factors may be useful.

Fifthly, it is important that lawyers – from practice and academia – participate in a discussion of whether criminal justice for core international crimes can contribute to reconciliation. This emerging discourse should not be surrendered to social scientists and experts in behavioural sciences, however vital their contributions are. The voice of lawyers also needs to be heard.

Sixthly, the question whether criminal justice accountability can contribute to reconciliation is different from whether this should be an objective. This seminar has not attempted to provide an answer to the second question. Both questions invite us to clarify our expectations of international criminal justice. It is reasonable and necessary to expect a) high quality investigation, prosecution and adjudication, b) of the best suited cases, c) in ways that accommodate relevant needs of victims. But more reflection on roles for war crimes justice that go beyond that, may be in place.”


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