Programs in International Justice and Society

Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project

In 1993, in response to ethnic violence and suspected war crimes in the Balkans, the United Nations created the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This was the first war crimes tribunal to be established since those that had operated in Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II.

One year later, after the international community recognized the extent of the atrocities that had taken place in Rwanda, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was created.

The influence of these so-called ad hoc tribunals cannot be overestimated. They were the testing ground for contemporary international criminal justice, leading to the creation of other war crimes tribunals with temporary jurisdictions — namely, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — and, significantly, the permanent International Criminal Court.

The Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project seeks honest evaluations about the challenges, successes and mistakes of the tribunals. It aims to preserve the voices of those individuals who worked to bring justice to Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and contributed to the development and "institutionalization" of international criminal law during the early years of the former Yugoslavian and Rwandan projects. It also seeks insights into what the ad hoc tribunals have and have not been able to achieve.

The Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project was inaugurated in fall 2014 by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. This archive of interview transcripts will serve as an educational resource that examines the tribunals from a unique perspective and contributes to our knowledge about the role that international criminal justice can play in today's world as well as the challenges that it faces.