Testimonial Deficiencies and Evidentiary Uncertainties in International Criminal Trials

40 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2011

Date Written: 2009


This article summarizes the research and conclusions that appear in my forthcoming book FACT-FINDING WITHOUT FACTS: THE UNCERTAIN EVIDENTIARY FOUNDATIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS (Cambridge University Press), which will be out in the summer of 2010. My book reveals that international criminal trials confront severe impediments to accurate fact-finding, impediments that should give rise to serious doubt about the accuracy of the Trial Chambers’ factual determinations. The basis for my study is a large-scale review of transcripts from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the Special Panels in East Timor. From this review, I conclude that much eyewitness testimony at the international tribunals is of highly questionable reliability. In particular, many international witnesses are unable to convey the information that court personnel expect – and need – to receive, if they are to have confidence in the factual determinations they make. My book contains a comprehensive treatment of these testimonial deficiencies, their multifarious causes, and their conceptual and normative implications. This article summarizes those conclusions.

Keywords: international criminal law, international criminal tribunal, fact-finding, Rwanda, ICTR, Special Court for Sierra Leone, East Timor, Special Panels for Serious Crimes, Evidence

Suggested Citation

Combs, Nancy, Testimonial Deficiencies and Evidentiary Uncertainties in International Criminal Trials (2009). UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, Vol. 14, No. 1, p. 235, 2009, William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-167, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1963227

Nancy Combs (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States
757-221-3830 (Phone)

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