The Impact of the ICTY on the Former Yugoslavia: An Anticipatory Post-Mortem
American Journal of International Law, Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 28, 2016
Has the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia persuaded target populations that the findings in its judgments are true? To answer that question, foundational for transitional justice processes, the article discusses a series of public opinion surveys in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. The detail and amount of data obtained through these surveys provide an unprecedented level of insight into the reception of factual determinations by international criminal tribunals by target audiences in post-conflict societies.
The surveys show that denialism and revisionism are rampant in the former Yugoslavia. For example, twenty years on, barely one-fifth of the Bosnian Serb population believe that any crime (let alone genocide) happened in Srebrenica, while two-fifths say that they never even heard of any such crime. The acceptance levels for many other serious crimes are in the single digits. They also demonstrate a strong relationship between the respondents’ ethnicity, their perception of the ICTY’s bias against members of their own group, and their distrust in the ICTY and in its findings, which increases the more the ICTY challenges the group’s dominant internal narratives.
This article tries to answer the “what” question – what was the impact of the ICTY on the attitudes of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia towards specific crimes that were the object of its judgments? At best, the answer to that question is that the ICTY failed to persuade the relevant target populations that the findings in its judgments are true. This is simply a fact, as established by the best evidence we have available. Equally important, but more open and contestable, is the “why” question – why has the ICTY proven to be so ineffectual in inducing attitude change? I address this “why” question in detail in a companion article forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of International Law.
Note: This is a pre-print draft that has not been copy-edited by the AJIL.
Keywords: ICTY, Yugoslavia, international criminal law, mass atrocities, war crimes, genocide, transitional justice, public opinion, surveys
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