More than 70 years after the first trial of major war criminals at Nuremberg, Germany, large scale human rights crimes continue to be committed all over the world, by government actors and by non-state actors ranging from members of paramilitary groups to employees of multinational business interests. International legal systems designed to redress atrocity crimes have been limited in their ability to prosecute more than a handful of perpetrators and even more limited in their ability to give voice and redress to the victims.
The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) is dedicated to bringing perpetrators of international crimes to justice. Over the last 19 years, CJA has employed a victim-centric approach to accountability litigation, using innovative legal strategies to bolster the limited architecture of international criminal law specifically through national (usually foreign) courts. Although legal practitioners in the countries where international crimes were committed may be in the best position to seek accountability for these crimes, often they have not had the opportunity to develop experience in litigating these cases. Even the most senior investigators, prosecutors and civil party lawyers may be unfamiliar with collecting, organizing, and preserving evidence to establish war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide – or with designing a legal strategy to address mass atrocity crimes. Working closely with local practitioners, CJA offers this missing expertise to buttress our partners’ domestic legal prowess.
CJA believes that holding perpetrators accountable in the country where the crimes were committed can be crucial for recovery from periods of conflict or repression. Especially when national processes provide for victim participation and broad engagement with civil society, accountability litigation can help build trust in the justice system and resilience in affected communities, so that the society can move toward a more sustainable, more just future. By providing dedicated technical support to our counterparts operating in transitional contexts, these initiatives leverage the critical role local prosecutors, investigators, victim attorneys, and civil society play in addressing impunity and bringing the survivors’ interests to the fore. These collaborations may include education or training but, at their best, also include case-based support whereby CJA specialists accompany our colleagues as they pursue international crimes cases in their local systems. Based on experience with investigation and prosecution of international crimes and victim representation in national jurisdictions, CJA develops technical tools and advice specifically tailored to meet our local partners’ needs as they identify them. These may include, for example, proving rape as a war crime without medical evidence, qualifying crimes for indictments that must harmonize international law with the local law, or strategies for empowering victims and survivors at trial.
Addressing egregious human rights abuses requires a network of accountability advocates. Thus, employing a holistic approach to accountability, CJA may draw on our network of prosecutors, civil party attorneys, investigators, analysts, security experts, forensic anthropologists, psychologists, or others as needed to further support local partners. Where appropriate, CJA engages in effective coordination and partnership with other international institutions, such as UN Women, the Institute for International Criminal Investigations, the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center, or Justice Rapid Response. CJA may also employ international and transnational strategies to support this work, for example, by facilitating the transfer of evidence to appropriate in-country authorities, or by supporting extradition of fugitive suspects to stand trial. For more information on Transitional Justice Initiatives, please contact:
Director of Transitional Justice