FORUMS

A distinctive feature of the forums of international tribunals is that, unlike domestic criminal courts where evidence is presented in established forums, they must instead “gather around the evidence,” as it were. In other words, the traces of the crime give rise to the space in which it can be judged. Almost fifty years after the Nuremberg Trials, it was the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) that reintroduced the processes of international justice. Currently these forums are multiplying and expanding to include national courts exercising universal jurisdiction, new institutions, and human rights commissions and councils. The maps show however that “international justice” is still largely a European export.

Featured Image: from Judy Radul, “World Rehearsal Court,” 2009.

International judicial network: compulsory jurisdiction across the globe. Data: Karen J. Alter, Cesare P. R. Romano (as of July 1, 2013)

International judicial network: compulsory jurisdiction across the globe. Data: Karen J. Alter, Cesare P. R. Romano (as of July 1, 2013). Visualization: Francesco Sebregondi.

International judicial network: taxonomic timeline. Data: Karen J. Alter, Cesare P. R. Romano (as of July 1, 2013)

International judicial network: taxonomic timeline. Data: Karen J. Alter, Cesare P. R. Romano (as of July 1, 2013). Visualization: Francesco Sebregondi.

International judicial network: universal jurisdiction. Data: International Crimes Database (as of February 1, 2014). Visualization: Francesco Sebregondi.

International judicial network: universal jurisdiction. Data: International Crimes Database (as of February 1, 2014). Visualization: Francesco Sebregondi.

Agoracentrism

The physical architecture of the forums of “international justice” can often be unassuming. Some of them inhabit improvised or rented offices, community and sports halls, and this ad hoc quality demonstrates the extent to which their physical setting is secondary to their function as media environments. The “agoracentrism” of these international tribunals means that they have emerged as media spaces in a way traditional courts—still largely allergic to the presence of the media—are not yet allowed to be. The architecture and physical arrangement of tribunals respond to the media by which they operate. Face-to-face interaction is replaced by face-to-screen and screen-to-screen interrogation. The legal process proceeds much like the work of broadcast studios, using a comparable array of facilities to record, store, archive, and transmit the images and sounds on which it depends.

The forums of international justice are not objective in the simple sense of the word; each is located within a complex political reality that operates according to a different set of protocols, and is prone to different forms of manipulations. Each ultimately draws different limits around what can be shown and said.

The Forensic Triangle

Forensics mediates between two sites of operation, namely fields and forums. The field is the site of investigation and the forum is the place where the results of an investigation are presented and contested. However, both these sites must be understood to be more than mere locational designations. The field is not only an abstract grid on which traces of a crime can be plotted out, but is itself a dynamic and elastic territory, a force field that is not only shaped by conflict but also shapes it. The forum, in turn, is a composite apparatus. It is constituted as a shifting triangulation between three elements: a contested object or site, an interpreter tasked with translating “the language of things,” and the assembly of a public gathering. Forensis thus establishes a relation between the animation of material objects and the gathering of political collectives.

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