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The Global Sites of International Criminal Justice

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - JustSites (The Global Sites of International Criminal Justice)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-12-31

The research project on the Global Sites of International Criminal Justice (JustSites) aims to study the constellation of localities in which international criminal justice is produced, received and has impact. The project understands the 'justice sites' as localities in which collective work with international criminal justice takes place. The justice sites include, for instance, locations in which forensic exhumations are carried out, NGO offices in and outside of conflict zones, foreign ministries, state authorities such as the police, private law firms, media outlets, academic research centers, and the international criminal courts. These sites are spread out across the globe, but are closely related through the work performed in them aimed at ending impunity for core international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression). Agents working in specific sites of justice depend on and compete with each other to set the agenda in the field of international criminal justice. The sites of justice form a relational constellation that drives developments in this field of law and justice.

The project moves beyond the conventional focus on courts and their context to investigate the more diverse constellation of justice sites – focusing in particular on the balances of authority and power that affect the relations between them. The main objective of the JustSites project is to contribute new frontier scholarship that provides a fuller and more accurate picture of how international criminal justice actually works, develops and has impact. To this end it makes the sites of sites of justice and the relations between them its main research object. JustSites scholarship is published in international, peer-reviewed outlets and shared with relevant stakeholders and policy makers, for instance through conferencing and blogging.

Contributing the first investigation of the wider constellation of justice sites is not only of value as new and original research, but is crucial for understanding the wider social, legal and political impact of this field of law. As such, the project is of importance not only to victims and communities affected by atrocity crimes, but also for practitioners working in the different justice sites, as well as for policy makers and stakeholders that design future responses to atrocity crimes as well as to other forms of globalized crime.
The first two and a half years of the JustSites project have been focused on building original databases on the sites of justice, the agents working in them and the perspectives on international criminal justice they produce and promote. For instance, the team has built a large database of more than 1.000 agents that work in (and at times across) the different sites of justice. In parallel to building original datasets, a new research team has been built from the ground up. Recruited from a global pool of applicants, the JustSites team includes researchers with expertise in law, sociology, linguistics, criminology and policing. In addition to working with new datasets, JustSites researchers have performed interviews with key stakeholders, although the number of interviews has been limited: Fieldwork to a number of important sites of justice had to be postponed because of COVID-19.

So far, the main results of the project have been published in scholarly outlets, on blogs and communicated at conferences. The research output builds on collected datasets to produce original perspectives on international criminal justice. For instance, JustSites publications have analyzed the linkages and differences between sites focused narrowly on international criminal justice and sites invested more broadly in transitional justice and policing. These results contextualize the collective work that takes place in the sites of justice and demonstrate how the relations between them are embodied, for instance, in different types of professional power. These forms of professional power are closely linked to particular normative perspectives on what forms of justice are perceived as most valuable. Contributing new perspectives on the forms of professional and symbolic power that characterize relations between the sites of justice, the results pave the way for future studies of how the larger constellation of justice sites has developed over time and what effects it has had on the effort to end impunity as well as on other social, legal and political initiatives.
JustSites publications have pushed beyond the state of the art by contributing new thinking tools designed to enable future studies of the justice sites and by empirically investigating the differences and linkages between specific sites of justice. With regard to thinking tools, JustSites have developed new concepts that make intelligible how the power relations between sites of justice work and develop. For instance, publications have demonstrated how the proximity to or distance from the state, as well as relations to specific parts of its bureaucracy, can affect power relations between the sites of justice. Concepts developed in previous publications will be used in future research and some have already been tested in empirical studies. These empirical perspectives push beyond court-centered literature to investigate how collective work performed in different sites of justice – spread out across the globe – affect material and symbolic developments in the field of international criminal justice.

In the coming years, JustSites results will build on progress made beyond the state of the art in at least two ways: First of all, JustSites researchers will contribute deeper studies of how the specific power relations between agents in distinct sites of justice work and develop. The JustSites project employs three PhD and two postdoc researchers who all focus on specific such relations. Second of all, JustSites research, primarily that of the principal investigator, will contribute frontier perspectives on the larger constellation of justice sites, its power dynamics and how they have evolved over time. Such contributions will demonstrate how the constellation of justice sites was affected by larger global transformations and how the constellation itself has effects in the world.