Options for Justice: A Handbook for Designing Accountability Mechanisms for Grave Crimes

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How can a country decimated by conflict establish accountability for grave crimes? How does a society reckon with mass human rights violations? How can perpetrators of some of history’s worst offenses be brought to justice?

The international justice movement seeks to address these issues. Today, that movement includes a diverse range of national courts, regional tribunals, and investigative mechanisms developed to deliver accountability in the aftermath of conflict. Some of these mechanisms have recorded major successes, holding fair trials that helped to re-establish the rule of law and bring justice to shattered societies. Others have struggled, hampered by inefficiency, lack of funding, or politics.

Options for Justice is the most ambitious effort to date to assess the design and impact of these different mechanisms—and to draw lessons that can inform the design of such institutions in the future. The report takes an in-depth look at 33 different justice mechanisms, from high-profile international courts such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to less formal domestic tribunals, such as the gacaca courts of Rwanda, to mechanisms with a broader mandate that includes corruption, as in Guatemala.

Based on years of research and dozens of interviews with survivors, lawyers, judges, and other officials, Options for Justice is essential reading for anyone interested in establishing justice in the wake of mass atrocity crimes.

“This handbook has content relevant to those designing accountability mechanisms for grave crimes in any location and under any circumstances. In the future, it should be possible to design smarter, more effective and efficient mechanisms to enforce the mounting expectation of criminal accountability reflected in international law.” —Hans Corell, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations from 1994 to 2004

“This book should be invaluable to the practitioner tasked with setting up a tribunal to try those accused of grave crimes. To have in one place a wide variety of examples and models from which to draw upon—whether dealing with the mechanism design, jurisdiction, financing, structure, etc.—will no doubt prove to be of enormous value. This handbook fills a real void and constitutes a major contribution in assisting those conceiving and developing such mechanisms.” —Larry Johnson, former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs from 2006 to 2008