A Must-Read Book on International Criminal Tribunals

by Kevin Jon Heller

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My friend Nancy Combs new book on international tribunals, Fact-Finding Without Facts: The Uncertain Evidentiary Foundations of International Criminal Convictions, has just been published by Cambridge University Press.  Here is the description:

Fact-finding Without Facts explores international criminal fact-finding – empirically, conceptually, and normatively. After reviewing thousands of pages of transcripts from various international criminal tribunals, the author reveals that international criminal trials are beset by numerous and severe fact-finding impediments that substantially impair the tribunals’ ability to determine who did what to whom. These fact-finding impediments have heretofore received virtually no publicity, let alone scholarly treatment, and they are deeply troubling not only because they raise grave concerns about the accuracy of the judgments currently being issued but because they can be expected to similarly impair the next generation of international trials that will be held at the International Criminal Court. After setting forth her empirical findings, the author considers their conceptual and normative implications. The author concludes that international criminal tribunals purport a fact-finding competence that they do not possess, and as a consequence, base their judgments on a less precise, more amorphous method of fact-finding than they publicly acknowledge. The book ends with an exploration of various normative questions, including the most foundational: whether the international tribunals’ fact-finding impediments fatally undermine the international criminal justice project.

I read the book in draft form and again after it was completed.  All I can say is this: it is one of the most important books ever written on international criminal law.  Full stop.  (That is essentially the blurb for the book that I submitted to CUP, at its request.  For some reason, they decided not to use it, which makes me sad.)

I could keep gushing, but what’s the point?  Just go read the book.


4 Responses

  1. I could not agree more.  Readers may be interested in the terrific overview that the author of the book posted today:


  2. I love that title ‘Fact-finding without facts’

  3. Wow, thanks so much Kevin! 

    I’m figuring that CUP never got your blurb.  The editor mentioned sometime during the process that he had gotten some blurbs but was still hoping to get one from you.  So, it must have gotten lost in cyberspace and he opted not to follow up.   And if you’re sad about that, think how I feel!

    Thanks again!

  4. Looks very interesting Ms. Combs. I will relish reading it.

    Best Regards,


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