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Is Justice Delayed at the International Criminal Tribunals?

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 91 Issue: 6 Dated: May/June 2008 Pages: 276-287
James Meernik; Rosa Aloisi
Date Published
May 2008
12 pages
This study identified and analyzed the factors that have determined the length of trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
The study found that the length of adjudication has been determined by two sets of conditions. The first set pertains to the difficulty and complexity of the case. These are factors that stem from the nature of the conflict being adjudicated, the number of persons who are charged with violating international law, and the nature of their involvement in the alleged crimes. One of the complexities of a case that extends trial length involves determination of the level of responsibility exercised by the accused in the perpetration of crimes against international law. This is a particularly complex issue when attempting to assess criminal responsibility of those in high-level military or civilian positions that remove them from direct involvement in the criminal acts at issue in the trial. Other complex issues are the trying of multiple individuals in the same case, the number of charges against each defendant, and whether or not guilty pleas can be obtained. The second set of conditions pertains to the conduct of attorneys and differences in the administration of the two tribunals. Defense attorneys’ arguments about the complicated conflicts in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the production of evidentiary documentation, and the questioning of witnesses whose testimony is being relayed simultaneously in multiple languages takes considerable time. The number of attorneys involved in a trial correlates with more complex and lengthy cases. The number of motions by attorneys also determines trial length. Judges at both tribunals have devoted many hours to responding to attorneys’ motions in a court that mixes elements of common and civil law applied to complex events. 8 tables