War and Its Witnesses: International Criminal Justice and the Legal Recognition of Civilian Victims

Garbett, Claire Joyce. 2009. War and Its Witnesses: International Criminal Justice and the Legal Recognition of Civilian Victims. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines how international criminal justice mechanisms construct legal recognition, protection and redress of the civilian victims of armed conflict. Using the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ('ICTY') as a case-study, it explores how the rules and practices of humanitarian law address and redress acts of civilian victimisation. Since the early 1990s, the United Nations has identified international criminal justice mechanisms as central to the prosecution of perpetrators of civilian victimisation. It has also increasingly understood that such mechanisms are important for their provision of 'restorative' justice to victims, including their recognition, participation and redress. This thesis examines the factors that enable or constrain the process of legally recognising civilian victims in light of this changing role of legal mechanisms. Chapters one and two outline the theoretical and methodological frameworks of the thesis. Chapters three and four analyse the protective rules of humanitarian law and the ICTY's prosecutions of civilian victimisation. A central principle of humanitarian law is that all parties to a conflict must distinguish between civilians and combatants. Civilians are all persons who are not combatants. However, this thesis argues that social categories of group membership are drawn upon and evoked during the processes of legally recognising civilian victims. It shows how the legal category of 'civilian' has been historically imbued with particular notions of nation, ethnicity and gender that can act as exclusionary categorisations. This thesis then examines how the ICTY designates 'civilian' status to individuals and collectivities by focusing on trial proceedings. Drawing on fieldwork at the ICTY, chapters five and six show that civilian victim-witnesses rarely conceive of conflict as a solitary experience, but instead view their victimisation in terms of structural and relational harms to themselves and others. However, this thesis argues that the ICTY's current form of legal practices do not establish recognition of all civilian victims nor adequately capture their collective and harmful experiences of victim is at ion in conflict situations.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Conflict, Yugoslavia, International Criminal Justice, Legal Recognition, Civilian Victims, Legal Mechanisms, Humanitarian Law, Exclusionary Categorisations



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Date Deposited:

30 Jun 2020 15:48

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:32



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