THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
JUSTICE FOR SURVIVORS OF WAR CRIMES

Tribunals must reach out to victims

July 12, 2011

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ILANA BET-EL’S excellent article, “The banality of good in UN tribunals,’’ makes a vital critique of the way in which United Nations tribunals provide little scope for victims of genocide and other mass atrocity to identify with the implementation of justice and achieve a sense of appreciation for and satisfaction from tribunal activities (Op-ed, July 7).

The UN tribunal for Rwanda, for example, has done an abysmal job at providing Rwandans with ongoing access to its work. Outreach has been marginal and weak at best.

Most Rwandans know little about the tribunal’s work and do not have access to its processes in any meaningful sense. This is in part because such tribunals do not orient themselves ethically, legally, or practically to show sensitivity to and interest in the welfare of victims. On the contrary, they are insular, self-referential, and concerned with a narrow pursuit of justice which turns victims into instruments for pursuing the court’s remit of determining the guilt or innocence of the accused.

The neglect of victims amounts to violations of the right to information and participation of victims who are largely alienated from and demoralized by the distant and opaque work of UN tribunals.

Noam Schimmel, London School of Economics and Political Science, London