“Dealing with the past”: the difficulties of forensic truth

Available in Russian

Author: Oleksandr Yevsieiev

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2017-4-122-136

Keywords: “memory wars”; International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia; memorial culture; the Yugoslav war of 1991 to 1995; war crimes


This article examines the phenomenon of “dealing with the past” in the activities of international criminal tribunals, particularly the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The “politics of memory” is analyzed as one of the elements of transitional justice, which makes it possible to make a transition to peace. There are two main strategies that the state can follow when attempting to deal with its own past: either a policy of silence, or a policy under the motto “never again!” The ambiguity of the truth that is extracted during the course of forensic investigation is emphasized. Particular attention is paid to the psychological and socio-cultural difficulties that arise in a person or an ethnic group when interacting with a different treatment of events than that adopted in their environment. In this regard, the specificity of “memory wars” is revealed as a defensive reaction to another version of historical events. Specific examples illustrate the attitude of the tribunal to the events of the Yugoslav war of 1991 to 1995. The ambiguous role of truth commissions has been identified, which in practice may prove less effective than full-fledged criminal tribunals. The possibilities of using the “memory policy” in post-conflict areas, in particular in the example of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine, are considered. The article concludes with a question: Given that it is known that the version of past events that is supported in a court’s opinion is referred to as forensic truth, is it possible that a key purpose of the existence of international law is to achieve maximum conversion of forensic truth and actual truth?

About the author: Oleksandr Yevsieiev – Candidate of Sciences (Ph. D.) in Law, Associate Professor; Scientific Adviser to the Justice, Ukrainian Constitutional Court, Ukraine.

Citation: Yevsieiev O. (2017) «Prorabotka proshlogo»: slozhnost’ sudebnogo po­znaniya [“Dealing with the past”: the difficulties of forensic truth]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, no.4, pp.122–136. (In Russian).


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