Art and International Justice Initiative
Art and International Justice Initiative


How can participatory art be a form of cultural democracy?
By Carmen van Bruggen *
posted on 14.03.2024

Think of a small village in the Netherlands: against the flat surface of the earth tall, flickering windmills stand out. Their arrival did not only change the landscape, but the whole status of the village. Villagers became known for their protests against the wind mills, their law suits, their anger.

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Student voices on filmmaking and international justice: reflections on Fragments of Humanity (2022)
By Maria Hass *
posted on 18.03.2022

Storytelling, or the expression of one’s own narrative, is one of an artist’s most powerful tools. It can prove useful in many scenarios. For instance, it is through dance, music, drawing, photography, film-making, creative writing, or other forms of art that some chose to heal from trauma in the aftermath of crimes, injustices, and atrocities. But does art play a role in criminal justice settings? This short contribution considers the particular role of film-making in promoting the goals of criminal law and engages debates about the potential of art in general as an alternative conduit for truth in the criminal process.

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Entering the void of Richard Serra’s
Equal Parallel Guernica-Bengasi

By Carmen van Bruggen *
posted on 6.07.2021

The works of the American artist Richard Serra are typically abstract, spacious and often without any reference to concrete political events. An exception is Equal Parallel Guernica-Bengasi – a room-filling sculpture made specifically for Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid in 1986 and permanently exhibited since 2009. It is just as abstract as his other creations, yet its title evokes reflection about the nature of human suffering in the course of hostilities. However, does it make sense to connect the abstract shapes of the sculpture with concrete events occurring during military campaigns? In this short text, I will explore the abstract qualities of Serra’s work and the war connotations of the title. This exercise will elucidate possible connections between abstract art and some aspects of international justice.

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The role of art as a wellness tool for legal professionals
By Sasha Phillips *
posted on 11.12.2020

In this brief contribution, I will explore utility of art as a wellness tool for those who are engaged in one of the most stressful professions - law. I am offering this rarely explored topic from my perspective as an artist, as a lawyer, and as an art wellness advocate.
I propose looking at art as a powerful wellbeing tool, which should be as much a part of anyone's wellness routine as proper nutrition and physical exercise. My goal is simple: reduce the prevalence and impact of mental health and substance use problems in the legal profession, improve the personal wellbeing of its members by using art, and build a stronger global legal network via cultural tools.

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A Monument for Srebrenica in The Hague
By Alma Mustafić * & Otto Spijkers **
posted on 25.10.2020

In this brief contribution we will provide examples of the “legal monuments” that have been produced in the city of The Hague by international and domestic courts so far. Then, we will share some reflections on the significance of these legal monuments, and their (limited) role in urging us to remember and show respect for the victims of the Srebrenica genocide of 1995. Finally, we will reflect on the significance of more artistic expressions, such as statues and theatre plays, urging us to remember.

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Designing A More Perfect Ad Hoc International Criminal Tribunal
By Victor Spijkers & Otto Spijkers *
posted on 22.10.2019

In this blog post, we reflect on the requirements relevant for the architectural design of the premises of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal. The establishment of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal often takes place after or even during a period of unrest, when there is no time or priority for an elaborate focus on a proper design. That is why the choice is quickly made to fall back on an already existing building, such as an abandoned office. The “recycling” of existing buildings might damage the reputation of the court, and even of international criminal justice more generally.

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Can art reimagine human rights? The case of South Africa’s blue dress.
By Eliza Garnsey *
posted on 29.07.2019

Inside the Constitutional Court of South Africa hangs Judith Mason’s The Man Who Sang and the Woman Who Kept Silent, more commonly known as The Blue Dress. The Court is a unique space by international comparison because it houses a large visual art collection developed by the court, and for the court. In this post I explore what is at stake by The Blue Dress hanging in the Court and suggest three ways in which the artwork contributes to the reimagining of human rights culture in South Africa.

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Art & Reconciliation
By Milena Michalski *
posted on 25.07.2019

This blog post offers some glimpses into the ways in which contemporary artists treat questions of conflict and reconciliation. I am writing this from my perspective as an artist and an academic, and more specifically as the AHRC Artist in Residence on the project ‘Art & Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community’... The over-arching concept of the project is an examination of ways in which art has been used, and can be used, to explore ideas of reconciliation, in all its myriad forms, in the context of post-conflict societies. There is no single definition of reconciliation in the project; on the contrary, it starts from the understanding of precisely how ill-defined and ambiguous the term often is. Recent research into arts in the Western Balkans has noted a tendency of regional artists towards producing artworks that focus on the past and on the memorialisation of historical conflicts.

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Exploring Culture in International Criminal Law through The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi
By Shea Esterling *
posted on 4.07.2019

The threats to cultural heritage are as many and varied as heritage itself. Amongst others they include economic development, natural disasters, degradation, tourism, illicit trade, iconoclasm and war. Like these threats, the responses are also many and varied. One response by international criminal law [ICL] is to proscribe behaviour that involves the destruction of cultural heritage.

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The Protection of Cultural Heritage by International Criminal Courts: the Emergence of a Lacuna
By Giulia Bernabei *
posted on 3.07.2019

This post discusses the function of two international criminal courts within the pursuit of the protection of cultural property and identifies the emergence of a lacuna. I consider the material element of war crimes against cultural heritage, as required by the Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and of the International Criminal Court (ICC). At present, a gap between the approaches of such courts undermines the degree of protection these judicial bodies accord to cultural goods.

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International Justice Through the Kaleidoscope of Photography – Thoughts on the Exhibition ‘Trauma, Healing and Hope’ at the International Criminal Court
By Raphael Oidtmann *
posted on 2.07.2019

‘Photography is truth’. This is how French-Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard once responded to the question of photography’s essential role and function. As eye-minded individuals, we tend to instantly agree with Godard: our intuition suggests that what we can see through our own eyes must be something tangible, something present, something real. And still, true as Godard’s dictum may be, it seems as if photography is more than just a random technique to (objectively?) record incidents occurring around us. Indeed: photography is a way of documenting truth.

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The Use of Artistic Productions as a Transitional Justice Mechanism in the Context of International Criminal Justice and the Misuse of International Tribunals’ Mandates
By Fiana Gantheret *
posted on 1.07.2019

What is the power of images? What do stories tell?

Who produces them? And for whom?

In this short contribution, I would like to underscore the use – or rather the misuse – of a reconciliatory mandate of international courts and tribunals in international criminal justice.

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Art, Justice and Reconciliation
By Rachel Kerr *
posted on 30.06.2019

There is new and exciting body of work emerging that interrogates different aspects of the arts and creative approaches in transitional justice and peacebuilding, including some exciting work that has begun to interrogate the aesthetics of international justice concepts and practices discussed here on the Art and International Justice blog. These new approaches apply innovative methodologies, drawing on a wide range of disciplines, to bring new insights into the theory and practice of transitional justice, from the aesthetics of the institutions and buildings, the courtroom drama, and the projection of the work of international courts to its main constituencies through artistic and creative approaches to outreach activities. Particularly interesting is the question of the extent to which the arts might be leveraged to serve two of the ostensibly most important goals of international justice – peace and reconciliation – by helping not only to communicate the work of international courts through outreach, but also more significantly by engaging people in dialogue about the issues and contexts with which it is concerned.

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“A Happy Building”: Architecture and Universal Justice at the International Criminal Court
By Miriam Bak McKenna *
posted on 28.06.2019

Six white cubes stand in a row along the costal landscape of the Hague. Their opaque trapezoid windows with their angled panes, interspersed with glass-free panels, give the appearance of a checkerboard. High fences are absent, rather it is a large concrete mote and the surrounding sand dunes that protect the structure. Apart from the conspicuous video cameras, and guard patrols directly outside the entrance, approaching the structure, there is little to set the building apart from any other corporate headquarters or multi-national institution. Despite its somewhat discreet appearance, the building houses the International Criminal Court (ICC), arguably one of the most significant international design projects since the construction of the United Nations Headquarters in 1951. Built nearly 100 years after the first purpose-built structure for an international organization – the Peace Palace, also located in the Hague, built in 1907 to house the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – the visual language of the two buildings could not be more different.

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Iconography at the International Criminal Court and the Idea(l) of International Justice: Symbolic or Substantive? [1]
By Jayati Srivastava *
posted on 27.06.2019

In a world dominated by iconography and circulating imageries, the proximity of the medium and its political ramifications cannot be overstated. Iconography related to international justice – whether an emblem, logo, painting or building - not only enacts an event but also encodes a message. Images are both the subject and object, simultaneously representing and creating realities about specific ideas and practices of international justice. Such iconography becomes a part of the representation and recollection of given ideas and informs the practice of justice. Hence, the deployment of an image is as significant as its encoded meaning.

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Scattered Thoughts on Art as Contrarian:
Justice Pal’s Memorial in Tokyo
By Mark A. Drumbl *
posted on 26.06.2019

Commemoration, remembrance, tribute: these rituals, which richly resonate within the world of art and architecture, are presumed to be positive ways to honor victims of atrocity. Visuality is assumptively taken as intrinsically benign, respectful, and in harmony with the arc of justice. Is this correlation axiomatic, however, or even usually the case? Art, after all, may be a vehicle for multiple normativities, contested truths, and variable veracities. Art may challenge. Art frustrates. It perturbs. It conspires as it inspires. Art, too, may soothe. It may calm and balm. Hence, in order to really speak about the relationships between the aesthetic and international criminal law, one must uncork the full range of initiatives – whether pop-up ventures, street art, or grassroots public histories – prompted by international criminal trials.

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INTRODUCTION: Art and International Courts
By Marina Aksenova and Maja Spanu *
posted on 25.06.2019

International law can be thought of in a number of ways. Most evidently, international law is a wide set of norms, rules, and standards that define and regulate relations among states and at times within them. The domains covered by international law are multiple: from diplomacy to economics, from warfare to human rights. But international law is not just concepts and norms. To exist, international law is practiced, performed, conceptualized but also contested by agents across the globe in multiple ways.

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Stitching In/Justice: The art of conflict textiles
By Christine Andrä, Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Lydia Cole, and Danielle House
posted on 12.06.2019
This contribution has been republished by the authors on the blog of Stitched Voices:

In our work with conflict textiles, we have been impressed with the way that these textiles tell difficult truths, naming perpetrators and representing specific massacres and torture prisons. It is this directness, together with the materiality of the cloth and thread and the embodied process of making, that makes conflict textiles a particularly strong force for justice.

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By Robert Golden
posted on 25.03.2019

Creativity is a process of observing, seeing and then doing – capturing a fragment of the world/life and revealing it to others. Observing, as we may realize, is not only a matter of our eyes or ears but what we take in from these perceptions, that is: what we see and therefore how we attempt to fill the box of culture with meaningful ideas and emotions.

Bureaucracy is about not observing but rather serving a narrow set of demands. In these days of computers, it is about’ yes’ and ‘no’, black and white.

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Camera Justitia at the Movies that Matter Festival
By Sofia Stolk (coordinator Camera Justitia programme at Movies that Matter/researcher at the Asser Institute, The Hague)
posted on 19.03.2019

How does it feel to return to the country that you were forced to leave as a child? How can you stand up to your corrupted boss, or even president? How can you defend yourself in a case where the media has already convicted you? And what do you do if your dog crosses a border and is not allowed to return? Difficult questions, with no easy answers. But one important common theme stands out: a fight for justice. The eight films in the Camera Justitia programme show that law can bring about justice, but equally so, it can be the root of injustice. Moreover, justice can mean different things to different people.

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The Role of Storytelling in Legal Justice Activism​

By Nishma Jethwa, Mumbai-based gender rights activist and human rights lawyer, Project Director for Feminist Justice at Once Future Collective, @NishmaJethwa
posted on 4.03.2019

This post aims to explain the role of storytelling as a way of promoting a different vision of justice among lawyers engaged in advocacy cases. It stems from my experience leading gender rights work at Strategic Advocacy for Human Rights (SAHR), where I was looking at what justice means to survivors of gender-based violence, and whether they were actually finding that justice within the criminal justice system. In our case-related work at SAHR we were seeing ‘mixed reviews’. While some clients found a sense of justice by observing legal proceedings, others did not.
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Using Art to Raise Awareness on Forced Marriage and Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Cambodia
By Alina Balta, PhD Researcher, INTERVICT, Tilburg Law School
posted on 24.02.2019

This contribution aims to put in the limelight the use of art to raise awareness on current issues in international criminal law (ICL). It discusses forced marriage and related sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and explains how it came under consideration before an international(ized) criminal tribunal, in casu the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
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