Yesterday, the ICTY held its first of three Regional Legacy Conferences in Sarajevo. Tomorrow a conference will be held in Zagreb, and on November 22nd the final one will be held in Belgrade. These conferences are a part of the outreach program of the ICTY, which perhaps realizes its physical and psychological distance from the people they are serving.
These conferences recognize a fundamental problem towards the process of reconciliation is a lack of knowledge among the community about what the ICTY discovered and accomplished. This is due to many things, including lack of access to internet, unavailability of the trial transcripts in local languages, as well as general unavailability of these records for the public use. Notably, this conference includes people from all areas: tribunal officials, national judiciary officials, NGOs, politicians, victims, journalists, academics, and even artists.
The concept paper for the conferences acknowledges the weaknesses of the ICTY and perhaps trials in general: “In spite of the many achievements of the ICTY, its legacy remains underused in most of the processes of transitional justice in the region – in truth-seeking and truth-telling, in the search for the forcibly disappeared, in creation of the culture of memory and respect for the victims, in seeking just reparations for them, and in the reform of institutions. Apart from the national war crimes courts, it is only a small number of NGOs and a handful of individuals from the region, that regularly and systematically utilise the ICTY legacy in their activities focused on transitional justice.”
These conferences introduce an element of restorative justice where retributive justice had primarily dominated. Truth telling and dissemination of knowledge, while once seen as a secondary inferior option to trials, has now become an essential component of achieving justice and reconciliation. I do wonder though, if the audience of these conferences is still a little narrow. Additionally, as time goes by, the potency of truth telling may become weaker. Therefore, at this point, I am not sure how effective these conferences–especially as a relatively last- minute idea still strongly concerned with the legacy of the trials themselves–will be at proliferating reconciliation through truth.