Visualizing International Criminal Justice

by Kevin Jon Heller

I want to call readers’ attention to a remarkable new report on international criminal justice authored by Daniel McLaughlin, a former legal officer at the ECCC, for Fordham’s Leitner Center for International Law & Justice. As the introduction states, the report is an attempt — a very successful one — to visualize information about the criminal tribunals:

There is wide awareness, though little true understanding, of the work of the international criminal tribunals.

International prosecutions of high-ranking civilian and military leaders, including former heads of state, on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, represent for many the ultimate condemnation of these individuals’ past actions and a measure of their fall from power. Yet, despite the tribunals’ grasp on the popular imagination, they are the subject of significant  misconceptions and confusion. Much of the media coverage dedicated to their work remains superficial, at best, and largely muddles over key distinctions between various tribunals, past and present. Conversely, the more informed scholarship is largely confined to specialty publications that remain inaccessible to most. In truth, many lawyers and non-lawyers alike lack a clear understanding of the role and functioning of these increasingly-pivotal international institutions.

This publication seeks to redress this knowledge gap by providing well-researched and accessible information for those wishing to more fully understand the international criminal tribunals and the conflicts over which they have jurisdiction. An informed public is an engaged public — and the issues that animate these tribunals, including delivering justice for victims of some of the world’s worst atrocities, are too significant to be discussed solely by a small cadre of international criminal law specialists.

Notably, this publication was created in partnership with graphic and information designers so as to reach a broader public. The designers’ visualizations present information regarding the tribunals and their underlying conflicts in a direct and accessible manner to a wide range of viewers, including those without a legal background. Beyond this democratizing function, information visualization also serves to reveal important data and trends that might otherwise go unnoticed in a more conventional format. Ideally, the following information, which is current as of January 2013, would be integrated into a continually updated interactive webportal dedicated to engaging a global public on issues of international justice.

In sum, this publication aims to facilitate a broader discussion of the international criminal tribunals’ notable accomplishments, as well as ongoing shortcomings.

I can’t do the amazing graphics justice, so just click through and download the report for yourself! It’s a must read — a must look? — for anyone interested in the tribunals.

8 Responses

  1. My experience – and that is certainly a limited one – is that most journalists are not even INTERESTED in gaining a good and thorough understanding of these matters. Leave alone being interested in reporting correctly and in actually informing their readers.
    That of course must be seen and evaluated within a wider frame, namely the role of legal reporting and legal features in the mainstream media. The demise of the Guardian’s legal section (cf. the fabulous Afua Hirsch of yore) was a flame writing on the wall.

  2. It visualises a lot of information about courts, but appears to completely omit any visual information about the atrocities which are the target of prosecution. A layperson could be forgiven for gaining the impression that this area of the law is basically about bureaucracy, rather than mass murder.

  3. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t disagree more. What did you want, atrocity porn? People with limbs hacked off, piles of skulls, and the like? I for one am delighted that the author of the report didn’t include such horrific images — yet introduced each tribunal with a moving quote from a victim and then described the atrocities that led to the tribunal’s creation in the introductory section. A person would have to be wilfully blind to read the report and think  that the tribunals are about bureaucracy, not the hundreds of defendants prosecuted for terrible crimes.

  4. What I’m actually talking about is more information about the crime base, not information in a different format. For example – the pie graphs about the ethnic breakdown of the population of the relevant countries, which I feel could be augmented greatly. What is the pertinence of there being 20,000 ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia in 1975, without also knowing that they were all dead or deported (save for 3 that we know of) by 1979?

  5. In fairness to those who produced the report, it does not, as I said above, “completely omit” information about the crime base – all of the sections open with an imaginative visual representation of some aspect of the offences in question. But my opinion remains that the report, although all the information is in some way relevant and certainly smartly presented, could have gone much further in this regard.

  6. This is exactly the kind of material that should be freely available on the ICC’s website and that Court staff could use to explain (and in some cases) their work and mandate.
    If there is anything missing, in my view it’s a breakdown of staffing at each tribunal and data on defence. But this should really be the beginning of something and not the end. 

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. […] Jon Heller at Opinion Juris beat me to the punch, but this is most definitely worth sharing with JiC readers. Daniel McLaughlin, who has been a […]

  2. […] on the international justice blogger bandwagon, I concur with Mark and KJH that you should all go read Daniel McLoughlin’s new report for the Leitner Center […]