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On Trajectories and Destinations of International Criminal Law Scholarship

  • SERGEY VASILIEV

Extract

Taking up the torch from my fellow co-editors who have addressed substantive and methodological issues of international criminal law (ICL) in their contributions, I propose to turn to the current state and prospects of its scholarship. The moment is opportune for such a reflection. The questions raised by the production and dissemination of international legal scholarship were the leitmotif of past editorials and its (changing) role was chosen as the theme of the latest LJIL symposium. The professional functions of international legal scholars have been the subject of renewed interest and debate. To give an impulse to a similar debate in ICL, I will try to capture the zeitgeist of its academia and offer some observations on the positioning of scholarship vis-à-vis practice in ICL. Perspectives from this specialized field may enrich the existing conceptualizations of international legal scholarship and provide a new angle on its place within the profession.

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References

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1 C. Stahn, ‘Between “Faith” and “Facts”: By What Standards Should We Assess International Criminal Justice?’, (2012) 25(2) LJIL 251; E. van Sliedregt, ‘Pluralism in International Criminal Law’, (2012) 25(4) LJIL 847; V. Nerlich, ‘Daring Diversity – Why There is Nothing Wrong with “Fragmentation” in International Criminal Procedure’, (2013) 26(4) LJIL 777; D. Jacobs, ‘Sitting on the Wall, Looking in: Some Reflections on the Critique of International Criminal Law’, (2015) 28(1) LJIL 1.

2 ‘The Changing Role of Scholarship in International Law’, The LJIL Symposium, 11 May 2015, The Hague Institute for Global Justice. See J. d'Aspremont and L. van den Herik, ‘The Public Good of Academic Publishing in International Law’, (2013) 26(1) LJIL 1; C. Stahn and E. de Brabandere, ‘The Future of International Legal Scholarship: Some Thoughts on “Practice”, “Growth”, and “Dissemination”’, (2014) 27(1) LJIL 1; F. Baetens and V. Prislan, ‘The Dissemination of International Scholarship: The Future of Books and Book Reviews’, (2014) 27(3) LJIL 559; C. Rose, ‘International Lawyers as Public Intellectuals and the Need for More Books’, (2015) 28(2) LJIL 393.

3 Notably, ‘International Law as a Profession’ was the theme of the 5th ESIL Research Forum (Amsterdam, 2013). A. Peters, ‘Realizing Utopia as a Scholarly Endeavour’, (2013) 24(2) EJIL 533; J. von Bernstorff, ‘International Legal Scholarship as a Cooling Medium in International Law and Politics’, (2014) 25(4) EJIL 977; G. I. Hernández, ‘The Responsibility of the International Legal Academic: Situating the Grammarian within the “Invisible College”’, in A. Nollkaemper et al. (eds.), International Law as a Profession (forthcoming, 2016), <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2613508> (accessed 1 August 2015).

4 Aalberts, T. E., ‘The Politics of International Law and the Perils and Promises of Interdisciplinarity’, (2013) 26 LJIL 503, 507–8; Venzke, I., ‘What Makes for a Valid Legal Argument’, (2014) 27 (4)LJIL 811, 815.

5 On the construction of semantic authority in the production of legal knowledge, see J. d'Aspremont and L. van den Herik, ‘The Digitalization of the Assembly Line of Knowledge about Law: A Reinvention of the Confrontational Nature of Legal Scholarship?’, ACIL Research Paper 2013–20, 4.

6 Ibid., at 5.

7 Ibid., at 4 and 5 (‘the struggle for the power to produce knowledge’ takes place in ‘a strongly organized and hierarchical semantic and social system that is far from egalitarian’).

8 See a retrospective in van den Herik, L., ‘Introduction: LJIL in the Age of Cyberspace’, (2012) 25 (1)LJIL 1, 14. For further reflections on the LJIL identity, see e.g. d'Aspremont and van den Herik, supra note 2, 1; Aalberts, supra note 4, 503; Venzke, supra note 4, 814; Jacobs, supra note 1, 2.

9 D'Aspremont and van den Herik, supra note 2, 1–2 (journals serve the purpose of the ‘crystallization of knowledge’ through ‘quality control’ and ‘order’); Stahn and de Brabandere, supra note 2, 8 (adding a ‘filtering’ function, i.e. ‘limiting the quantity of published output’).

10 The Journal of International Criminal Justice, the International Criminal Law Review, as well as Criminal Law Forum and the International Journal of Transitional Justice.

11 See also d'Aspremont and van den Herik, supra note 2, 3.

12 Venzke, supra note 4, 814; d'Aspremont and van den Herik, supra note 5, 8.

13 D'Aspremont and van den Herik, supra note 2, 1.

14 The LJIL's motto as formulated by a former EiC: ‘to pry and to provoke rather than to solve and to settle’: van den Herik, supra note 8, 3.

15 The vulnerability of ‘consensus claims’ was usefully pointed out by Lianne Boer in her LJIL symposium presentation ‘“The Greater Part of Jurisconsults”: On the Construction of Authority in Legal Scholarship’ (supra note 2).

16 Van den Herik, supra note 8, 4–8; d'Aspremont and van den Herik, supra note 2, 4–5; Stahn and de Brabandere, supra note 2, 6–7.

17 D'Aspremont and van den Herik, supra note 2, 2–4.

18 M. J. Christensen, ‘From Symbolic Surge to Closing Courts: The Transformation of International Criminal Justice and its Professional Practices’, (2015) International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 1 (assessing that, due to the completion of the tribunals’ mandates, about 3,200 positions in the field of ICL are disappearing).

19 I am grateful to Carsten Stahn for inviting me to reconsider my initial pessimism.

20 Schwöbel, C. E. J., ‘The Comfort of International Criminal Law’, (2013) 24 Law and Critique 169, 170; C. E. J. Schwöbel ‘The Market and Marketing Culture of International Criminal Law’ in C. E. J. Schwöbel (ed.), Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law: An Introduction (2014).

21 On the downsides of uncontrolled growth, see Stahn and de Brabandere, supra note 2, 7–8.

22 D'Aspremont and van den Herik, supra note 2, 2 (‘the proliferation of legal thinking . . . can be extremely harmful for the discipline as a whole’).

23 E.g. S. M. H. Nouwen, Complementarity in the Line of Fire: The Catalysing Effect of the International Criminal Court in Uganda and Sudan (2013); J. N. Clark, International Trials and Reconciliation: Assessing the Impact of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia (2014). See also the LJIL symposium on ‘Integrating a Socio-Legal Approach to Evidence in the International Criminal Tribunals’ published in issues 26(4) and 27(1).

24 Stahn, supra note 1; C. Kreß, ‘Towards a Truly Universal Invisible College of International Criminal Lawyers’, FICHL Occasional Paper Series (2014), 24–25. On the parallel development in international law, Shaffer, G. and Ginsburg, T., ‘An Empirical Turn in International Legal Scholarship’, (2012) 106 (1)AJIL 1.

25 Koskenniemi, M., ‘Law, Teleology and International Relations: An Essay in Counterdisciplinarity’, (2012) 26 International Relations 3; J. Kammerhofer and J. d'Aspremont, ‘Introduction: The Future of International Legal Positivism’, in J. Kammerhofer and J. d'Aspremont (eds.), International Legal Positivism in a Post-Modern World (2014) 9.

26 K. J. Heller and G. Simpson (eds.), The Hidden Histories of War Crimes Trials (2013); M. Lewis, The Birth of the New Justice: The Internationalization of Crime and Punishment, 1919–1950 (2014); M. Bergsmo et al. (eds.), Historical Origins of International Criminal Law, Vols. 1 and 2 (2014).

27 R. Cryer, ‘The Philosophy of International Criminal Law’, in A. Orakhelashvili (ed.), The Research Handbook on the Theory and History of International Law (2011); L. May and Z. Hoskins, International Criminal Law and Philosophy (2010); see also chapters by D. Luban and A. Duff in S. Besson and J. Tasioulas (eds.), The Philosophy of International Law (2010).

28 Christensen, supra note 18; Dixon, P. and Tenove, C., ‘International Criminal Justice as a Transnational Field: Rules, Authority, and Victims’, (2013) 7 (3)International Journal of Transitional Justice 393; Baylis, E., ‘Tribunal-Hopping with the Postconflict Junkies’, (2008) 10 Oregon Review of International Law 361.

29 Kreß, supra note 24; M. J. Christensen, ‘Academics for International Criminal Justice: The Role of Legal Scholars in Creating and Sustaining a New Legal Field’, iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 14, 2014.

30 See contributions in C. E. J. Schwöbel (ed.), Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law: An Introduction (2014); Robinson, D., ‘Inescapable Dyads: Why the International Criminal Court Cannot Win’, (2015) 28 (2)LJIL 323; id., ‘The Controversy over Territorial State Referrals and Reflections on ICL Discourse’, (2011) 9(2) Journal of International Criminal Justice 355; Nouwen, S. M. H., ‘“As You Set Out for Ithaka”: Practical, Epistemological, Ethical, and Existential Questions about Socio-Legal Empirical Research in Conflict’, (2014) 27 (1)LJIL 227; Jacobs, supra note 1.

31 E.g. Kreß, supra note 24, 1–10; Christensen, supra note 29, 9 et seq.

32 Thus, under ‘genres’, I mean not the forms of dissemination (monographs, treatises, articles, etc.) or research methods and approaches (formal legal, comparative, interdisciplinary), but a set of conventions defining the scholar's self-positioning in relation to the object of study.

33 As noted by Robert Cryer in his LJIL symposium presentation ‘From Thought to Practice, and then to Where? The Changing Relationship between Scholars and Practitioners in International Law’ (supra note 2).

34 Leander, A. and Aalberts, T., ‘Introduction: The Co-Constitution of Legal Expertise and International Security’, (2013) 26 (4)LJIL 783; Hernández, supra note 3, 2.

35 On the role of academics in the construction of international criminal justice, see Christensen, supra note 29.

36 Cryer, R., ‘International Criminal Tribunals and the Sources of International Law: Antonio Cassese's Contribution to the Canon’, (2012) 10 Journal of International Criminal Justice 1045, 1053; C. Steer, ‘Non-State Actors in International Criminal Law’, in J. d'Aspremont (ed.), Participants in the International Legal System: Multiple Perspectives on Non-State Actors in International Law (2011) 303.

37 This forecloses the question whether international judicial output – in particular, separate opinions emulating scholarly literature in style and purport (in view of the tenuous link to issues sub judice) – is an extravagant form of scholarship. The related query whether it may be a genre in statu nascendi is best left for another time. Stahn and de Brabandere, supra note 2, 2 (speaking of individual judicial opinions as ‘scholarship in disguise’).

38 Elsewhere, I proposed to distinguish three recent ‘generations’ of ICL scholarship: ‘like-minded’ (1st), ‘critical’ (2nd), and ‘methodological’ (3rd): S. Vasiliev, International Criminal Trials: A Normative Theory (PhD 2014), 12–17.

39 Kreß, supra note 24, 10–12 (‘from ceremonial affirmation to constructive criticism’). While the second stage conjures up the notions of romance, euphoria, and triumph, the key words of the third are disillusionment, scepticism, and critique. Luban, D., ‘After the Honeymoon: Reflections on the Current State of International Criminal Justice’, (2013) 11 (3)Journal of International Criminal Justice 505; Akhavan, P., ‘The Rise, and Fall, and Rise, of International Criminal Justice’, (2013) 11 (3)Journal of International Criminal Justice 527.

40 See Stahn and de Brabandere, supra note 2, 2 (distinguishing ‘academic scholarship’ and ‘scholarship of action’).

41 Broadly corresponding to the ‘theoretical’ and historical’ functions of the ICL scholarship identified by Claus Kreß: Kreß, supra note 24, 13 and 25.

42 See ibid., 15–19 (‘doctrinal function [of] refining the law’).

43 Stahn and de Brabandere, supra note 2, 2 (doctrine d'action). In Kreß’s classification, the activist genre would probably come closest to the ‘advisory function’: Kreß, supra note 24, 19–20.

44 This is not reducible to the ‘control’ functions of ICL scholarship: cf. Kreß, supra note 24, 20–23 (on ‘evaluating, enhancing and protecting the system's legitimacy’ and ‘questioning taboos’).

45 See also ibid., 24 (‘empirical function’).

46 Venzke, I., ‘International Law and its Methodology: Introducing a New Leiden Journal of International Law Series’, (2015) 28 (2)LJIL 185, 185.

47 Venzke, supra note 4, 811; Radi, Y., ‘In Defence of “Generalism” in International Legal Scholarship and Practice’, (2014) 27 (2)LJIL 303, 308.

48 ‘Hague International Tribunals: International Criminal Court and Tribunals’ (ICCT).

49 Radi, supra note 47, 303 and 305.

50 Kreß, supra note 24, 8; Christensen, supra note 29, 22.

51 Kreß, supra note 24, 8 (‘This increasing sensitivity for international criminal law's belonging to two “parent disciplines” helps to avoid an unhealthy compartmentalisation within the college of international criminal law.’).

52 See also Radi, supra note 47, 306 note 15 (‘the acquaintance with specific legal regimes feeds the knowledge of the basic categories of international law and reflection on their evolutions’).

* Editorial Board; Faculty of Law and Center for International Criminal Justice, VU Amsterdam []. Thank you to Elies van Sliedregt, Carsten Stahn, and Eric de Brabandere for conversations which sparked the idea for this editorial and for their invaluable comments. Misperceptions, hyperbole, and reticence are mine alone.

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