International Criminal Tribunals as Actors of Domestic Change

The Impact on Media Coverage, Volume 1

by Klaus Bachmann (Volume editor) Irena Ristić (Volume editor) Gerhard Kemp (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 252 Pages
Series: Studies in Political Transition, Volume 11


Do International Criminal Tribunals trigger social change, provide reconciliation, stabilize fragile post-conflict societies? Many authors claim they do, but they base their assumptions mainly on theoretical considerations and opinion polls. The editors and authors of this book take a different position: based on extensive field research in nine European and African countries, they examine whether tribunal decisions resulted in changes in media frames about the conflicts which gave rise to the creation of these tribunals. International Tribunals hardly ever shape or change the grand narratives about wars and other conflicts, but they often manage to trigger small changes in media frames which, in some cases, even lead to public reflexion about guilt and responsibility and more awareness for (the respective enemy’s) victims. On an empirical basis, this book shows the potential of International Criminal Justice, the possibilities, but also the limits of International Criminal Tribunals. Volume 1 presents the evidence from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication Page
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • The indirect impact of the ICTY on the media in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • The Invisible Hand of the ICTY: Narratives on Dubrovnik in Montenegro
  • ICTY trials and media frames in Republika Srpska: Plavšić and Lukić & Lukić
  • Frames of a just war: the media and political discourse in Kosovo during the Haradinaj trials
  • Between acknowledgment and denial: the Serbian narrative of the war and shifts in media frames
  • Croatia: the framing of the Homeland war
  • Bibliography
  • The editors and authors
  • Index



Aleanca për Ardhmërinë e Kosovës

Alliance for the Future of Kosovo


Armija Bosne i Hercegovine

The Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina


Bosna i Hercegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina


Dayton Peace Agreement


Demokratska partija socijalista Crne Gore

Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro


European Union


Forcat e Armatosura të Republikës së Kosovës

Armed Forces of Republic of Kosovo


Hrvatska demokratska zajednica

Croatian Democratic Union


HDZ in BiH (see HDZ and BiH)


Hrvatska vojska

Croatian Army


Hrvatsko vijeće obrane

Croatian Defense Council


Hrvatska zajednica Herceg-Bosna

Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna


International Criminal Court


International Court of Justice


International Criminal Law


International Criminal Tribunal


International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda


International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia


Joint Criminal Enterprise


Jugoslovenska narodna armija

Yugoslav People’s Army


Kosovo Liberation Army


Koha Vision Television

Koha Vision TV


Lidhja Demokratike e Kosovës

Democratic League of Kosovo←11 | 12→


North Atlantic Treaty Organisation


Nongovernmental Organisation


Nedeljne informativne novine

Weekly Information News (weekly in Serbia)


Republika Srpska

The Serb entity in Bosnia and Herzegovinaa


Republika Srpska Krajina

Republic of the Serb Krajinab (Croatia)


Radio Television of Kosova


Srpska autonomna oblast

Serb Autonomous Districtc


Stranka demokratske akcije

Party of Democratic Action (BiH)


South East Europe Media Organisation


Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia


Secretary General of the United Nations


Socijalistička narodna partija

Socialist People’s Party (of Montenegro)


Special Representative of SGUN


Teritorijalna odbrana

Territorial Defense


United Kingdom


United Nations


United Nations Mission in Kosovo


United Nations Protection Forced


United States of America


Vojska Jugoslavije

Yugoslav Army


Vance-Owen Peace Plan


Vojska Republike Srpske

Army of Republika Sprska


Vojska Republike Srpske Krajine

Army of the Republika Srpska Krajine or Army of the Republic of Serb Krajina←12 | 13→


Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung


zbor nacionalne garde

Gathering of the National Guard (predecessor of the Croatian Army)

a Do not confound with the Republic of Serbia! The name is sometimes not at all translated, and sometimes it is translated into “The Republic of Srpska”.

b Name of the joint statelet of Serbs in Croatia. See also: SAO.

c Name of mainly Serb-inhabited entities in Croatia before their merger.

d UN mission in BiH.


When the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) were created, they were first and foremost expected to do justice and prosecute perpetrators of the most heinous crimes. However, in the respective United Nations General Assembly resolutions and the resolutions of the UN Security Council, the tribunals were also expected to contribute to peace-keeping, the stabilization of the countries under their jurisdiction and even – in the case of Rwanda – to reconciliation. Later on, judges at both tribunals referred to these expectations, justifying some of their judgments and decisions with the aim to contribute to reconciliation, either by invoking the (alleged) will of victims or the (also alleged) need to reintegrate perpetrators.1

The hopes of these international tribunals’ founders were often shared by the media and the wider public. International criminal tribunals (ICTs) were not only expected to judge crimes and criminals, but also to reunite broken communities, prevent revenge, deter potential perpetrators from committing crimes, and deliver convincing and unifying narratives about the atrocities that had taken place. Although these hopes overstretched the capacities of the tribunals, their representatives often referred to them and sometimes even tried to achieve them. One of the more specific expectations in this context was the wish of many, the tribunals might “shrink the space of denial”.2 By exposing unknown or supressed facts about past atrocities and by condemning them publically, the tribunals were expected to prevent communities, community leaders, and the media from claiming that these atrocities had ever taken place, had been invented by their former enemies, or were part of a conspiracy against the deniers’ community. The wish to curb denial was the main motive behind the creation of an outreach program by the ICTY.3 This motivation was much weaker in the case of the ICTR (which also had a less dynamic outreach program), because the prevention of ←15 | 16→genocide denial quickly became a main task for the Rwandan judiciary and after the consolidation of the post-genocide Rwandan state an objective, which the judiciary, law enforcement, and the educational sector in Rwanda took over. For the scattered Rwandan exile communities overseas and in the refugee camps in Zaire (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Tanzania, and other parts of Africa, the ICTR outreach program had no relevance.4

At the International Criminal Court (ICC) which became operational in July 2002, outreach and extra-judicial tasks had less importance, due to the limited scope of judicial intervention which the ICC can undertake. The Rome Statute limits the ICC’s possible interference to cases, where a country is either unwilling or unable to prosecute international crimes under the Rome Statute. As long as a government can show its willingness and capacity to hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable, there is neither a need nor a way for the ICC to step in. Additionally, the gravity threshold of the Rome Statute also restricts the ICC’s possible interference to cases of very grave crimes and high-ranking perpetrators. Opposite to the ICTY and the ICTR, the ICC does not work under a primacy principle which would give it the right to claim any suspect and take over any case it deems appropriate, but it functions as a kind of “court of last resort” which can only take over cases which are not being judged by the respective country. Because the examination whether a country is willing and able to prosecute a crime usually takes quite a lot of time, the ICC often takes over cases concerning atrocities which took place several years ago. All this makes it much more difficult for the ICC to shrink the space for denial, or, in general, to fulfill extra-judicial tasks like reconciliation and post-conflict stabilization.

The literature about ICTs and International Criminal Law (ICL) is dominated by lawyers, who focus on ICTs’ tasks, the material and institutional law applied by ICTs and discuss the functioning of the tribunals and the coherence of their jurisprudence from a theoretical perspective. A part of this literature meanders between law and sociological institutionalism and is busy with the tracking of decisions, trying to reveal how and why certain decisions at ICTs are taken and how they are influenced by external and internal factors.5 This bulk of research ←16 | 17→dealing with “process control” is supplemented by a growing literature dealing with the relations between intra-court decision making and the wider public, and it often concentrates either on issues of judicial behavior (how judges and courts are influenced by external factors)6 or on the question how courts and judges are influencing perceptions of the public and media coverage. This is at the core of this publication’s interest. It tries to detect whether – and if yes, how – tribunal decisions impact public opinion or, more precisely, media frames. It contributes to a scholarly debate which has lasted for several centuries and whose core forms the discussion about Kathryn Sikkink’s “justice cascade”.7


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (March)
International Justice Tribunals Africa Yugoslavia International Criminal Court United Nations
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 251 pp., 1 table

Biographical notes

Klaus Bachmann (Volume editor) Irena Ristić (Volume editor) Gerhard Kemp (Volume editor)

Klaus Bachmann is Professor of social sciences at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw, Poland, specialising in Transitional Justice. Irena Ristić is a researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences in Belgrade, focusing on the history of Serbia in the 19th and 20th century. Gerhard Kemp is Professor of law at Stellenbosch University and advocate of the High Court of South Africa. He specialises in international criminal law.


Title: International Criminal Tribunals as Actors of Domestic Change
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253 pages