ABSTRACT

The legal and political instrumentalism of the latter twentieth-century phenomena of international criminal tribunals (ICTs), special courts and truth or truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs) – as well as the extent to which they are ever able to establish an unassailable singular ‘truth’ about the horrendous acts that defendants are charged with perpetrating – has been extensively discussed in the media and in relevant scholarly literature.1

The precedent for using international law to prosecute those who violated ‘the laws of humanity’ and the establishment of such legal bodies was established earlier in the twentieth century, first with the Commission to Consider the Responsibility of the Authors of the War that was set up as a component of the Versailles Peace Conference following World War I, and then with the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and subsequent tribunals held in Nuremberg after the end of World War II to prosecute crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.2 Notably, in both cases, the bodies were established by the victorious sides. More specifically, in the case of the IMT, such trials, marked by new legal precedents, had to simultaneously prevent those on trial from being able to claim that they were being tried ex post facto (i.e., under a law that did not exist when the alleged crimes were committed), or to argue tu quoque (i.e., that ‘you also did it’). TRCs, on the other hand, may have various mandates, and may not always result in the punishment of perpetrators.