Foreign Policy Blogs

On Tribunals

The historical aim of tribunals is an integrated, universal policy that will diffuse to local assimilation through continued and standard usage. A practical division of labor accompanied by a reasonable balance between punitive and reconciliatory measures will bring about this assimilation in order to effectively establish a reasonable standard moral code.

On TribunalsThe 19th century jurisprudential critic, John Austin, commenting on the morality of international law, stated that the law of nations is set by the restraining effects of fear; "The duties which it imposes are enforced by moral sanctions: by fear on the part of nations, or by fear on the part of sovereigns, of provoking general hostility, and incurring its probable evils" The challenge of formulating universal justice is to establish a legitimate perception of reconciliation that is not viewed as an imperialistic effort to exact punishment and display the spoils of war.

The degree of penetration that the normative yardstick of acceptable behavior achieves in the domestic consciousness is unclear. Customary international law that is enforced through moral obligation and reciprocation may not be fully integrated with ordinary domestic law which, while familiar to local elites, may lack the complexity of the high-development of jus gentium. A purely international system may neglect ordinary law and a purely domestic system may have little impact on the criminalization of atrocities.

War crimes tribunals seek reconstruction of the international capacity of states and the reconciliation of its peoples. Challenges of legitimacy and intent are still prevalent regardless of the system. Reconciliation should use all available tools, just as those holistic policies used in establishing a multinational conflict management policy do. Networks of common and ordinary law, as well as various jurisprudential critics and advisors, lead to a conglomeration of norms.

On TribunalsThe international atrocities regime serves the purpose of relegating past elite systems to historical authorities. It also serves as a contribution to the establishment of a normative benchmark that defines appropriate behaviors by states and their leaders. The instinct to punish, however, may lead observers of the atrocities regime to the conclusion that the system is seeking a victor's justice.



Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors