Features of evidence in the practice of international criminal justice

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Author: Oleksandr Yevsieiev

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2019-3-69-83

Keywords: evidence; International Criminal Court; International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; International Tribunal for Rwanda; judicial cognition; proofing


The article deals with a block of problems related to the process of proving before the international criminal justice bodies, particularly the International Criminal Court, as well as the two international criminal tribunals ad hoc: for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. It underlines the influence that the Anglo-Saxon institutions, including the evidence law, stressed on the constituent documents and the practical activities of these jurisdictional bodies. Appealing to the past of the international criminal justice, mainly the experience of the Nuremberg trial 1945–1946, the author notes the significant changes that have occurred over the past decades in the field of characteristics and the list of evidence with which international courts operate. In particular, the increasing use of visual evidence, as well as digital evidence, obtained through the Internet, has become more and more widespread. Special attention is paid to the oral testimony of the witnesses and the defendants who remain conditio sine qua non carried out in strict procedural forms of legal activity aimed at establishing the factual circumstances. Introspection is done in specific court proceedings that took place during the period of the ICTY’s existence, above all, the trial of the former Serbian President S.Milosevic. An attempt is made to highlight some common problems characteristic of all types of evidence in the international criminal procedure. Among the difficulties which appear in connection with the evidence law in the international criminal justice one can name the significant time gap between committed crimes and the moment of presenting evidence before an international court. Indeed, over the past decades, not only the witnesses died or grew old, the material evidence and many documents were lost, but also the events themselves have been transformed so radically by the daily information input that it is already extremely difficult for the people to separate the personal memories of what they saw and the kind of social narrative that is aggressively imposed to the post-conflict societies through the media. Other difficulties are caused by the non-professional work of the translators or simply by human misunderstanding on a language basis. For example, in the ICTY the vast majority of the victims and the witnesses did not speak the working languages of the Tribunal. It is stressed that the priority of oral evidence increases the risk of testimonial inaccuracies which are caused by human perception. That is why the psychologists identified a pattern according to which the risk of mistaking the testimony of witnesses (victims) of violent acts is higher than that of witnesses (victims) of non-violent.

About the author: Oleksandr Yevsieiev – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Yevsieiev O. (2019) Osobennosti dokazyvaniya v praktike organov mezhdunarodnogo ugolovnogo pravosudiya [Features of evidence in the practice of international criminal justice]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.9, no.3, pp.69–83. (In Russian).


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