In spite of the large scale violations that continue to play out within the Syrian civil war, international responses supportive of individual criminal responsibility remain radically underdeveloped. This would have been a common stance for much of international legal history, but since the end of the Cold War and the monumental rise of the International Criminal Justice field, the current crisis over Syria is a human tragedy that threatens to undermine the normative and institutional edifice of international criminal law. Operating at the margins of inter-governmental agencies is the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), which was established through Western donor monies in 2011 to amass documentation, build case files and provide training to a nascent criminal justice sector in both Syria and Iraq. The highly sensitive and secretive nature of CIJA’s work presents difficulties for policy makers and scholars alike to assess the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach to accountability. Here, in this seminar I will share initial findings from over twenty interviews conducted with CIJA staff working at their European headquarters as well as in Syria to speculate on the possible contribution of CIJA to accountability efforts and to reflect more broadly on the evolution of the international criminal justice field.
About the Speaker
Dr. Michelle Burgis-Kasthala is a Research Fellow in the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) and member of the Centre for International Governance and Justice (CIGJ). Before joining RegNet she spent six years in Scotland as a lecturer in International Relations and Middle East Politics at the University of St Andrews and then as a lecturer in Public International Law at the University of Edinburgh. Her interests lie in the fields of critical international legal studies with a regional focus on the Arab world where she has lived and worked. Her doctoral thesis and then book (Brill, 2009) was entitled Boundaries of Discourse in the International Court of Justice: Mapping Arguments in Arab Territorial Disputes. Her current project will interrogate the interrelationship between international criminal law, human rights law and transitional justice as registers of redress within the revolutionary context of the Arab Uprisings. She is also a Research School of Asia and the Pacific (RSAP) Fellow.