Sorry! De informatie die je zoekt, is enkel beschikbaar in het Engels.
This programme is saved in My Study Choice.
Something went wrong with processing the request.
Something went wrong with processing the request.

Research & Publications CICJ

Research at CICJ focuses on legal, empirical and theoretical aspects of conflict-related crimes and international criminal justice.

Employing both legal and criminological research tools, CICJ takes an interdisciplinary approach, focusing on the following three areas of research:

  1. Mapping and measuring the prevalence of conflict-related crimes
  2. Explaining the causes of such crimes
  3. Tailoring effective responses to such crimes

Each of the research projects below focuses on one or more of these aspects.

Transitional Justice and Accountability

  • Angola and Transitional Justice

    After a war of independence against the Portuguese colonizer, Angola has known a civil war from 1975-2002. What could be characterized as a ‘proxy Cold-War’ in the 1970s and 1980s, in the 1990s turned into a ‘greed’-based war over the control of natural resources. During the war numerous war crimes, and arguably also crimes against humanity, were committed; an estimated 500,000 to 1 million people died as a consequence of the war and the country was infected with landmines. When a peace agreement was signed in 2002, it included a blanket amnesty for all former warring parties.

    Based on a literature review and original empirical fieldwork in Angola, this project describes the transitional justice process in Angola. In particular, it describes how in the absence of any accountability mechanisms alternative strategies to truth seeking, reconciliation, commemoration or memorialization have been adopted.

    This project is partially financed by a NWO Doctoral Grant for Teachers.


    Key publications

  • Breaking the Cycle of Violence in Post-Conflict Settings: The Potential of Community-Based Sociotherapy in Rwanda

    This NWO WOTRO funded research project, conducted in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) and Community Based Sociotheray Program in Rwanda (CBSP) aims to: (i) understand how legacies of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, its aftermath and related experiences are transmitted to the next generation of Rwandans through processes within families; and (ii) identify whether and how sociotherapy can play a role in addressing such pathways of intergenerational transmission. Previous research has demonstrated long-lasting and inter-generational effects of mass violence on individuals, families and communities. In Rwanda, the 1994 genocide and its aftermath led to large-scale individual traumatization, disruption of family structures, shifts in gender roles, increase in familial violence, and continuing tensions within communities. In the aftermath of the genocide, sociotherapy has been implemented in Rwanda to contribute to improving psychosocial wellbeing of individuals, enabling interpersonal reconciliation and strengthening social cohesion.

    Findings showed direct and indirect pathways by which legacies of the genocide and its aftermath are transmitted to the second generation within families. The direct pathways of intergenerational transmission concern the ways in which the legacies of the genocide are communicated (or silenced) to children. The indirect pathways of intergenerational transmission are the ways in which the genocide and its aftermath affect the second generation’s socio-ecological environment, and through that, the socialization environment of the child. Examples include the effects on (i) family structures (e.g. missing family members due to death or imprisonment); (ii) family functioning and parenting (e.g. suffering of parents makes them less sensitive to the needs of their children); (iii) family socio-economic situation and status (e.g. poverty); or (iv) community relationships (e.g. processes of stigmatization and shame or feelings of jealousy and inequality or mistrust within communities). The pathways are interrelated in various ways. Sociotherapy has the potential to address both direct and indirect pathways of intergenerational transmission through its intervention and more purposeful strategies to target second generation are currently being developed.

    If you want to know more about this project, you can read this article in the journal Societies:


  • Casuistry in International Criminal Law

    In this project the case law of international criminal courts is analysed and evaluated by using insights from casuistry. Casuistry is an age-old form of legal reasoning that is based on the thought that the law operates and develops in interplay with case-specific facts. From this perspective, the project assesses how international criminal courts apply substantive legal concepts – i.e. international crimes and modes of liability – to the facts of individual cases. This assessment provides further insights into the meaning and scope of substantive international criminal law and adds a new voice to existing debates on judicial reasoning.


    Key publication(s):

  • Dissecting Dissent: Non-violent Resistance in Post-Soviet Regimes

    Non-violent resistance has become increasingly popular in the recent years. From the Black Lives Matter movement to the Arab Spring and the Colour Revolutions, the ‘powers that be’ have been challenged through the use of non-violent methods such as sit-ins, protest, boycotts and strikes for ages. However, the number of democracies worldwide is declining and protests seem to become less and less effective in achieving their goals. In this research project, we delve into this perceived efficacy and distinguish the factors that make or break non-violent movements.

    Research into this type of movements is not new. Various studies since the 1960’s have offered us several pieces of the puzzle in understanding nonviolent campaigns. Yet, there have been limited attempts to assemble the entire puzzle and see if the pieces actually fit together. By constructing a framework that includes over 50 factors found in nonviolent resistance research, that seem to impact nonviolent resistance in the micro-, meso- and macro-level, we do the first attempt at building this puzzle. By applying this framework to cases where nonviolent resistance has failed to develop, where it has failed to succeed and where it has succeeded, we try to see how well these pieces fit and which need to be rearranged or added.

    This interdisciplinary research project combines interviews with activists, independent journalists and opposition parties with literature reviews and expert statements, to provide a cohesive in depth overview of how and why nonviolent resistance has, or has not, developed and succeeded in three post-soviet cases. The choice for the post-soviet region is a result of the extraordinary variance in resistance within the region, while the levels of repression, the government structure and resource-based economies are similar. By combining the cases of Turkmenistan, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, we gain valuable insights on how the previously analyzed puzzle pieces fit and which factors help assess and predict the development of successful nonviolent movements.


  • Escaping Justice

    War, conflict and authoritarian regimes create refugees. On the basis of Article 1F of the Refugee Convention countries are obliged to exclude persons from refugee protection when there are ‘serious reasons for considering’ that they have committed serious crimes. These crimes include, but are not limited to, war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and acts of terrorism.

    The interdisciplinary Escaping Justice Project focuses on the implications of the application of Article 1F Refugee Convention. It evaluates how many persons are excluded from refugee protection, assesses what background excluded persons typically have and appraises on what factual basis exclusions are based. The project analyses governments’ reactions following decisions to exclude. How often, on what base and for what crimes are excluded persons prosecuted or extradited? How often, and under what conditions, are excluded persons sent back to their countries of origin? Are they relocated or do they manage to relocate themselves? What alternative responses exist? In particular, the project addresses the issue that excluded persons who cannot be prosecuted or deported due to human rights concerns, are left in limbo. They are undesirable, but unreturnable.

    The project has clear links with CICJ’s When Justice is Done Project that looks into the question what happens to persons after being convicted or acquitted by international criminal tribunals and discusses the practical, political and normative dilemmas that stem from a lack of harmonization between international criminal law and refugee law, in particular the applicability of Article 1F Refugee Convention in particular.

    Based on empirical research the Escaping Justice Project aims to identify policy challenges and promote feasible solutions. The researchers focus primarily on the situation in the Netherlands and other European countries. They adopt a variety of methods, ranging from file analysis, expert interviews and interviews with excluded individuals. The researchers regularly organize events where academics meet practitioners and provide presentations at academic conferences and in the professional field.

    Research grants


    Key Publications

  • Eyewitness Memory in Cross-Cultural Contexts

    The research project Eyewitness Memory in Cross-Cultural Contexts is a collaborative project of the Amsterdam Laboratory for Legal Psychology (ALLP) and the Center for International Criminal Justice (CICJ). It is financed by an European Research Council Starting Grant awarded to Annelies Vredeveldt.

    Our increasingly international society demands that eyewitnesses of serious crimes regularly provide testimony in cross-cultural settings, such as international criminal tribunals. This poses significant challenges for investigators and legal decision-makers. Errors in fact-finding may result in wrongful convictions and unjust acquittals. Yet, eyewitness memory research has predominantly focused on Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) witnesses.

    In this research project, we assess how culture-dependent variables influence eyewitness memory. The project addresses two key objectives: (1) develop culturally modulated theory of eyewitness memory and (2) design and test evidence-based interview guidelines.

    Subproject 1 examined what happens when police investigators interview eyewitnesses from a different cultural background. It will involve the systematic coding of culture-dependent variables in video-recorded police interviews with witnesses of serious crimes in South Africa, a society with many different subcultures. This subproject was led by postdoctoral research fellow Laura Weiss, supervised by Annelies Vredeveldt.

    In Subproject 2, we analyse the frequency, nature and legal consequences of culture-dependent variables in international criminal cases. It will involve an empirical document analysis of eyewitness evidence provided at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and interviews with international legal scholars and practitioners. This subproject is led by PhD candidate Dylan Drenk, supervised by Annelies Vredeveldt and Barbora Hola.

    In Subproject 3, we assess how different cultural groups encode, store and retrieve memories, and how memory reports are evaluated in immigration contexts. It will involve a series of experiments in which the objective and perceived characteristics of statements provided by asylum seekers originating from Sub-Saharan Africa are compared to a matched Western control group. This subproject is led by PhD candidate Gabi de Bruïne, supervised by Annelies Vredeveldt and Peter van Koppen.

    The project integrates analyses of video, document and experimental data to provide insight into culture-dependent variables in eyewitness memory. The new theory will enable researchers to steer away from the present WEIRD bias in legal psychology. The interview guidelines will help investigators obtain better information from witnesses.


  • In Limbo

    Increasingly, governments regard criminal, or allegedly criminal, immigrants to be undesirable elements in their societies. For years, the United States and Canada have been stripping former Nazis of their citizenship. A growing number of European countries exclude alleged war criminals, terrorists or génocidaires who apply for asylum from refugee protection on the basis of Article 1F Refugee Convention. Progressively, countries deem immigrants who commit serious crimes in their host countries ‘persona non grata’ and there is an increasing call to cancel passports of foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq.

    In tandem, governments are ever more confronted with hurdles in deporting undesirable immigrants. Practical obstacles or human rights standards may prevent removal, leaving the undesirable but unremovable immigrant in a state of limbo.

    Undesirables in Limbo
    Non-citizens who do not have or do not qualify for legal residence in the host country because of (alleged) involvement in serious crimes or because they are considered to pose a threat to national security, whose forced removal is for a considerable period of time not possible for a variety of legal, political and practical reasons.

    States have been adopting different strategies to deal with the matter, ranging from expelling the immigrants irrespective of the potential for human rights violations, negotiating bilateral memoranda of understanding with countries of origin, facilitating extradition, prosecution on the basis of universal jurisdiction, promoting relocation to third countries, long term detention, providing restricted leave or simply ‘condoning’ their presence. At times undesirable individuals are like ‘hot potatoes’ sent from one country to another, without any country accepting responsibility.

    Building on the research projects Escaping Justice and When Justice is Done, with the project “In Limbo” we expand the scope of the previous research and aim to publish an accessible book for a wider audience. The main argument of the book will be that the world will increasingly be faced with undesirable and unremovable immigrants living in limbo. The book sketches the historical context on the issue, describes which different groups that end up in limbo, depicts the lives of those living in limbo and discusses past and present policy responses in dealing with limbo-situations.

    The project takes a multidisciplinary and empirical approach. Rather than taking a normative stance, it provides an overview of developments and dilemmas, richly illustrated by case studies. Information is obtained by means of an analysis of available academic literature, case law, media coverage and interviews with practitioners and immigrants themselves.

    Key publications:

    Senior researchers:

    Junior researchers:

    • Tara Ditzel
    • Janek Gulbis
    • Helena Kreiensiek
    • Hajer M’tiri
    • Hossein Mojtahedi
    • Caroline Opperman
    • Flavia Patanè
    • Gaia Rietveld
    • Malte Stedtnitz
    • Luna Yperman
  • Insider witnesses’ credibility and reliability: an empirical legal framework for international criminal justice

    This NWO funded PhD project analyzes insider witness testimony at international criminal courts and tribunals. Insider witness testimony is both the strongest and the weakest link in international criminal justice. Only insiders can link high-level perpetrators to international crimes – such as genocide and crimes against humanity. However, their credibility and reliability is often (successfully) contested, obstructing international criminal justice. This study, conducted by Gabriele Chlevickaite and supervised by Barbora Hola and Catrien Bijleveld, will combine legal and empirical mixed-method analyses to identify those witness assessment factors that most strongly affect insider witness’ perceived credibility and reliability, and empirically test a theory-based framework that will innovate empirical international legal scholarship as well as provide guidance for practitioners.

    Gabriele Chlevickaite graduated from the VU Master in International Crimes and Criminology (cum laude) in 2015. While studying at the VU, Gabriele was interning as a junior researcher on a project “When Justice is Done” at the Center for International Criminal Justice (CICJ), followed by an internship at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Her master thesis, focused on insider witness testimony at the ICC, provided the basis for the Empirical Study of Insider Witnesses’ Assessments at the International Criminal Court, a research article co-authored with Barbora Hola, published in the International Criminal Law Review in August 2016. The thesis itself was the finalist at the “Visions for Peace” award in 2015. Over the last three years Gabriele has been working as an analysis assistant at the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

    Gabriele joined the NSCR and the CICJ as a PhD candidate in September 2017, after being awarded the NWO Research Talent grant. Her current study, building upon upon her previous work, will focus on the credibility and reliability assessments of insider witnesses in international criminal courts and tribunals, namely the factors influencing the practitioners’ decision-making, and their impact on the evidentiary weight of the testimony in question. The aim of the study is to establish empirically-based witness assessment guidelines for international criminal justice.

    Gabriele is a member of the NSCR Empirical Legal Studies Cluster and researcher at the CICJ.

    Key publications:


  • Modes of Liability and the “Fragmentation” of International Criminal Law

    This project studies the “fragmentation” of the international criminal law on modes of liability: i.e. the process where notions like co-perpetration, command responsibility, etc. are sometimes subjected to conflicting interpretations by the various international criminal courts (“horizontal fragmentation’) and by domestic courts trying international crimes (“vertical fragmentation”). The descriptive element of identifying such instances of fragmentation is further complemented by a normative research on whether such processes should be avoided and how.


    Key publication(s):

  • Sanctions under the ICC’s Principle of Complementarity: Case Study of Colombia

    This PhD research, funded by the NWO, aims to determine to what extent sanctioning is part of the ICC’s complementarity assessment, particularly during peace processes.

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Under the ICC’s principle of complementarity, states have primary responsibility to prosecute such atrocities and the ICC should step-in only if national states are “unable or unwilling” to do so. In the context of peace negotiations, the issue of future prosecutions and sanctions (e.g. imprisonment, fines or alternative sanctions) is often pivotal. (High-level) perpetrators of international crimes often agree to sign peace accords conditional on amnesty or minimal retributive measures. It is unclear whether this could lead to the ICC determination that a State is “unwilling” to genuinely prosecute crimes and a subsequent ICC intervention: the Rome Statute lacks explicit legal regulation on the role of sanctions in this respect. This lacuna can complicate or even paralyze peace processes.

    After sixty years of war, the Colombian government is negotiating peace with the main guerrilla group (FARC-EP). Guerrilla leaders have expressed their openness to investigations, but any potential punishment remains contentious. The key element that can tilt the scale is the possible intervention of the ICC if it determines that international crimes are going unpunished. This study synthesizes doctrinal analysis of this ‘complementarity principle’ with empirical analysis of sanctions negotiated during peace processes – focusing on Colombia. The findings contribute to the legal authority of the ICC and provide guidelines for practitioners. As such, it generates a basis for future conclusion of durable peace accords.



    • Barbora Hola and Catrien Bijleveld
  • Survivors of Mass-Victimization Making Sense of Reparations

    The goals of reparations expanded from a focus on repairing individual victims and punishing individual perpetrators, to objectives that were supposed to instigate profound transformations within post-conflict societies. With the expansion of the orientation and the modalities of reparations, debates arose about the actual effects of reparations within particular contexts. Studies on reparations for a long time mainly focused on the normative assumptions of what reparations should do instead of what they were actually doing. This means that normatively much is known about the conceivable effects of reparations based on research studies, but nonetheless, not much is known yet empirically about the actual effects of the right to and materialization of reparations in the lives of survivors. In two research projects we aim to contribute to this empirical exploration of the outcomes of reparations.

    The first project, "A waste of time or no time to waste? Assessing the impact of international reparative justice procedures", funded by NWO, aims to determine whether, and if so how, international justice procedures contribute to a sense of victims' justice. International criminal justice institutions and international human rights procedures were set up to process the right to reparation. The study includes extensive in-depth life-history research combined with semi-structured interviewing with survivors of massacres and gross human rights violations in Cyprus, Guatemala, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We compare data from survivors who are and who not entitled to reparations in four judicial cases of four institutions; The International Criminal Court; The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; the European Court of Human Rights; and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

    Within the second research project “Examining Effects of the Interim Reparative Measures of the Global Survivors Fund on Survivors of Conflict Related Sexual Violence”, commissioned by the Global Survivors Fund (GSF), we examine the perceived changes to the quality of life of survivors of conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) as a result of Interim Reparative Measures (IRM) provided by GSF. IRM are measures provided by non-duty bearers such as non-governmental and civil society organisations to survivors, where States or other duty-bearers have yet to comply with their obligation to provide reparations. We conduct longitudinal studies with survivors of CRSV in Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Northern-Iraq. We use a mixed-method approach in which participatory visual qualitative research methods are combined with a standardized questionnaire.

    VU/ NSCR Researchers:

  • Transitional Justice and Intergenerational Transmission of Legacies of Mass Atrocities

    In the 20th century alone, mass atrocities related to genocides, wars or repressive regimes cost over 200 million lives, with hundreds of millions more injured, traumatized, communities fractured, and infrastructure destroyed.  Mass atrocities harm not only individuals, who directly experience violence or loss. Research demonstrates that their legacies are longitudinal, multi-faceted, affecting lives, psyches, attitudes and narratives on individual, family and community level, and can transcend multiple generations. Scholarship on such intergenerational transmission (IGT) however, is scattered across different disciplines and situations of atrocity, with very limited cross-disciplinary exchanges and no systematic, comparative synthesis. This fragmentation fundamentally limits our understanding of what legacies of mass atrocities are, and how they are being transmitted to next generations. 

    To address legacies of mass atrocities and foster peaceful and prosperous futures, societies have been implementing transitional justice (TJ). Scholarship on TJ, however, remains largely normative and aspirational. Only a very limited number of empirical studies assess what impacts TJ have on the lives of individuals, families, and communities who experienced atrocities. In addition, there is no scholarly exchange whatsoever among these two streams of scholarship (IGT&TJ) despite them both studying how dealing with the past shapes the future. They are, however, intrinsically related - TJ arguably shapes what legacies of mass atrocities are transmitted across generations on an individual, family and community level, and how.

    This project aims to close the fundamental gap in our understanding of IGT and TJ. It will conceptualize, operationalize and study their linkages on case studies of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Czechia by asking the following question:

    What role does transitional justice (TJ) play in intergenerational transmission of legacies of mass atrocities (IGT)?


  • Transitional Justice and Prevention of Radicalization in Iraq’s post-Islamic State Landscape

    December 2017, the Iraqi government announced the defeat of Islamic State (IS) and referred to this ‘post-IS landscape’ as a new page in the history of Iraq. Although the security situation has improved considerably over the past years, this is not the first time that Iraq celebrates the anniversary over radical Islamists. A cursory scan of Iraq’s post-2003 invasion history underlines a recurring ‘cycle of violence’ of this fragile state; sectarian wars, systematic human rights violations, terrorist acts and widespread international crimes have continuously been committed by various radicalized groups, including IS.

    Taking this violent past into account, there is an obvious need to develop feasible and context-specific transitional justice mechanisms combined the potential to integrate calls for justice and long-lasting peace on the one hand and prevent or limit the risk of future radicalization on the other hand. Given the deep-rooted sectarian tensions, the culture of tribalism, political exclusion and the disturbed collective identity in Iraq, formulating and implementing such an integrated framework may, however, prove to be very challenging.

    Combining legal doctrinal analysis and empirical (field)work, this innovative multidisciplinary project aims to provide practical and feasible suggestions for transitional justice which is accompanied by locally-inspired models for prevention of radicalization in Iraq’s post-IS landscape. In separate sub-studies it more specifically:

    • develops an Islamic theory of transitional justice with the potential to integrate Islamic law and jurisprudence with existing transitional justice mechanisms. Given the dominant intertwined cultural-religious structures in Iraq, such a tailored and localized approach could possibly foster elite- and public support for suggested transitional justice mechanisms;
    • maps out modes of transitional justice that have thus far been applied by the Iraqi government and international actors. This includes a reliable estimation and description of the number of criminal prosecutions of IS suspects in Iraq, the context and nature of these trials, the type of crimes the suspects have been held accountable for and sentencing practices. This part also elaborates on the interplay between Iraq’s government international law responsibilities on the one hand (the responsibility to investigate and prosecute IS-members/suspects for international crimes, safeguarding human rights standards) and its domestic law responsibilities on the other hand (notably, the Iraqi penal code and anti-terrorism laws);
    • taking into account the push and pull factors of violent extremism in pre- and post-IS era, explores if – and to what extent – transitional justice mechanism can be formulated/used to frustrate processes of radicalization in post-IS Iraq;
    • explores if – and to what extent – it is possible to develop and implement conceivable and practically feasible alternative judicial and non-judicial transitional justice responses to the already existing ones. The abovementioned framework takes into account the calls for justice, reconciliation, reparation, truth seeking and prevention of radicalization at the same time, while doing so safeguarding the international human rights standards and humanitarian law. Regardless of a doctrinal-legal analysis, this part also includes a vignette study that tests what transitional justice responses the Iraqi population perceive to be fair and just.

    The research is partly funded by VU Vereniging.




  • Universal Jurisdiction Trials of Core International Crimes and the Applicable Legal Standards

    Recent empirical data shows that states today are increasingly exercising universal jurisdiction (UJ) to prosecute foreign citizens for atrocity crimes against other non-nationals on the territory of other sovereign states. One major cause for this increase has been the ongoing wars in Syria and the wider region, which have led to a migrant ‘crisis’ and the presence in European countries of many witnesses, victims and sometimes perpetrators of such crimes. One of the challenges that these trials raise concern the applicable legal standards in UJ proceedings. What definitions of crimes, forms of liability and defenses ought to apply in such trials: those established in the prosecuting state’s national laws, or those in international criminal law? States’ practice on this point is inconclusive and undertheorized.

    This research seeks to determine to what extent the exercise of UJ requires domestic authorities to apply the international legal definitions of crimes, forms of liability and defenses, instead of those established in their own national laws. The use of domestic legal standards in UJ trials is assessed vis-à-vis a range of core legal principles from the fields of international jurisdictional, criminal and human rights (e.g. legality, lex mitior, sovereign equality, non-interference, etc.)


    Key publication(s):

  • Vertical (In)consistency of International Sentencing: Case Study of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda

    This NWO-funded project aims to empirically evaluate to what extent sentencing of international crimes by international criminal tribunals and domestic courts evolved into consistent practice and how any inconsistencies in international sentencing can be explained.

    Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are the most serious crimes of international concern. These international crimes, such as committed in the Former Yugoslavia or Rwanda, entail widespread mortality and victimisation, as well as long-lasting societal trauma and disruption, that may take generations to heal. While for some conflicts, domestic courts have eventually prosecuted these crimes, the international community has established international criminal courts and tribunals to ensure that “justice is done” and the most culpable perpetrators do not go unpunished. However, the simultaneous operating of these different legal systems – with different legal traditions and differing dogmatic underpinnings – has generated incidents where perpetrators of similarly serious crimes received widely different sentences. It has, however, not been established how structural such inconsistency is. Inconsistency may be problematic not only from a normative point of view by violating the principle of equality and fairness, but may threaten the legitimacy of international criminal justice. Indeed, surveys have reported large discontent in post-conflict societies with international criminal justice and in particular with the leniency and “unfairness” of sentences at the international level.

    This study has been designed to address this situation. By combining qualitative legal case file analysis with quantitative regression analysis, it will assess to what extent inconsistency of sentencing of international crimes occurs, as well as identify factors that generate inconsistency. The research is based on a comparative case study of sentencing of international crimes committed in the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda by various courts at the international and domestic level. The findings will be published in academic journals, presented at international academic conferences and laid down in an “International Sentencing Handbook” that will, employing domestic as well as international academic and legal practitioners’ expertise, offer remedies to harmonize sentencing of international crimes.

    • Project leader: Barbora Hola
    • Project coordinator in Rwanda: Chris Amani, MSc
    • Project coordinator in Bosnia: Dr. Almir Maljevic
    • Junior researcher: Jessica Kelder
    • Intern: Leonie van Breeschoten
    • Interns in Rwanda: Pascaline Umutesi, Jean-Pierre Tuyishime, Kayumba Godfrey and Mazimpaka Eddy
    • Interns in Bosnia: Mirza Buljubasic, Ademir Durakovic and Ljubisa Mandic
  • When Justice is Done: Life After Conviction or Acquittal

    Perpetrators of international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are often denoted as “hostis humanis generis” – enemies of all mankind. Over the past decades, the international criminal justice system has been dealing with these “most serious” offenders and a number of international courts and tribunals have been prosecuting “those most responsible for international crimes”. Primary examples of such international(ized) criminal tribunals and courts are the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the permanent International Criminal Court.

    These courts have over the last decades tried over 150 perpetrators of international crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone or for example in Congo , respectively. About 35 individuals have been acquitted. The project “When Justice is Done” empirically analyses what happens to these convicted and acquitted individuals. It assesses where and under what circumstances international convicts serve their sentence, to what extent they are rehabilitated while in prison and where and under what circumstances they pick up life after their release. It analyses the challenges acquitted individuals may face as a consequence of their criminal trial.



  • Yugonostalgia in Comparative Perspective

    Nostalgia for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (i.e., Yugonostalgia) is often portrayed as a complex social phenomenon occurring among the people of successor states established after the armed conflict which resulted in Yugoslavia’s break-up. The nostalgia is based on remembering the positive aspects of the Yugoslav people’s common, inclusive, and peaceful past, but longing for the time when there was peaceful co-existence is contentious given the region’s violent past. While some believe Yugonostalgia can facilitate post-conflict reconciliation among the states and their people, others warn that yearning for a socialist past can potentially hinder the progress of newly-developed democratic states. 

    While most studies approach Yugonostalgia as a singular phenomenon that touches each of its successor states, this research project aims to take on a comparative perspective to the complex phenomenon of Yugonostalgia. By examining the existing literature on the forms and expressions of post-conflict Yugonostalgia in three of the Yugoslav successor states, namely Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, we seek to analyse the extent to which Yugonostalgia differs across these countries. In addition, we aim to investigate the ways in which manifestations of Yugonostalgia might vary across the different countries, and examine whether the underlying reasons for its occurrence differ. Finally, we aim to analyse the potential impact Yugonostalgia might have on the reconciliation processes within and between Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia.


Etiology of International Crimes

  • Breaking the Chain of Command

    This PhD research of Eva Whitehead aimed at finding out how and why soldiers abstain/refrain from becoming war criminals after they have received orders to commit illegal acts.

    Previous research has shown that many war criminals and human rights violators are not sadists, but rather average people. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the situational context is extremely influential for the transformation of ordinary people into perpetrators of international crimes. In the extraordinary circumstances under which people commit international crimes, many psychological mechanisms have been identified that enable individuals to obey authority irrespective of their moral judgement. In contrast, much less is known about individuals defying authority, epically about military personnel confronted with illegal orders, who are under an obligation to obey.

    This NWO-funded research examines soldiers who did not obey illegal orders. It aims at identifying and understanding factors that may account for the behavior of individual soldiers and describes ways they refuse or circumvent such orders. The environment and the nature of the various behaviors of soldiers are looked at in greater detail in two case studies, namely the MyLai massacre in Vietnam (1968) and the shootings at the inner-German border (1961-1989). Biographical information, individuals’ accounts of the situations, interview (transcripts) and a survey among one group are analyzed to gain more insight into the individuals and to understand which mechanisms may have prevented individuals from becoming perpetrators of international crimes.

  • Climate Change and Conflict

    As global temperatures continue to rise, so does the evidence supporting the assertion that climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing tensions and potentially leading to conflict. As river basins dry up or change course due to glacial melts, nations sharing these basins may end up in disputes. Erratic weather patterns, including prolonged droughts or unseasonal rains, lead to crop failures, thus exacerbating food insecurity. Nations or communities dependent on agriculture not only face economic losses but may also vie for fertile lands, leading to local or even international disputes. Sea-level rises, desertification, and other climate impacts promote forced migration, sometimes across national borders, creating or exacerbating tensions and anti-migration sentiments. It is debated to what extent activist groups calling for action to stop climate change become ever more radicalized, possibly resorting to terrorist tactics to further their cause. This explorative research project aims to identify how insights from supranational criminology can promote our understanding about the interrelationship between climate change and conflict. 


  • Corporations and International Crimes

    Corporations often contribute significantly to the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Corporations and International Crimes project aims at developing a theoretical framework for corporate involvement in (historical as well as contemporary) international crimes and test if the theoretically relevant variables are able to explain why some corporations become involved in international crimes while others do not.


    Key publication(s):

    For more information on the project contact: Annika van Baar

  • Criminal Careers of Dutch War Criminals

    Empirical quantitative research on the criminal careers of war criminals is scarce. Little is known about the question to what extent they had been engaged in criminality before war, how and if the circumstances of war encouraged them in committing crimes, and how their criminal career developed after war in a post-war society that might – depending on the role they played – might consider them to be traitors or collaborators.

    This PhD project aims to address the life course of Dutch World Word II war criminals. The research provides a description and an analysis of the life course of the so called ‘political offenders’ who were convicted by one of the special courts in the Netherlands that have been installed briefly after the Second World War. By means of a file analysis their criminal career before, during and after the war will be researched. Based on these unique historical (closed) archives, the research aims to identify and explain what type of offenses they are convicted for, what the nature of these offenses was and how their criminal careers have developed before, during and after the war. As such, the research includes the ‘classical’ criminological questions on prevalence and etiology of a unique group of perpetrators.

    For more information on the project contact Jantien Stuifbergen

  • Human Evil

    Moral consciousness (knowledge of good and evil) is an important part of the classical conception of human evil. The Human Evil Project tries to determine what the function of moral consciousness is in the perpetration of international crimes on the basis of legal, ethical, historical, psychological and criminological research.


    Key publications:

    • Rozemond, Klaas. ‘De complexiteit van het kwaad. Een kritische lezing van Hannah Arendts Eichmann in Jerusalem’, The Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, 2012, 1, 63-82.
    • Rozemond, Klaas. ‘Beccaria’s Dream on Criminal Law and Nodal Governance’, in J. Blad, P. van Calster, M. Hildebrandt, M. Schuilenburg en K. Rozemond (red), Governing Security under the Rule of Law, The Hague: Eleven International Publishing 2010,  p. 37-51.
    • Rozemond, Klaas. ‘De droom van Beccaria. Over het strafrecht en de nodale veiligheidszorg’, Rechtsfilosofie & Rechtstheorie 2010, nr.2, p. 158-175.
  • Knowing What We Know Now: International Crimes in Historical Perspective

    Historians argue that unfaithfulness to the categories used by people in the past or attributing a contemporary concept to a historical event is senseless. Labeling past deeds as war crimes or crimes against humanity is, in their view, anachronistic since these terms were not available to the agents themselves. It is also moralistic since the unavailability of these concepts in the past prevented contemporaries from judging reasoning in terms of current values, norms and beliefs. The purpose of this project is to find out whether criminologists are necessarily culpable of ‘senseless anachronism’ when they use contemporary concepts to describe or explain historical international crimes. And what if lawyers who apply contemporary legal standards when judging acts that were committed in the past are also guilty of anachronistic reasoning and, therefore, a-historical moralism? In order to answer these questions we will need to consider whether anachronism is always ‘senseless’ (and ‘senseless anachronism’, therefore, a pleonasm) and whether every form of anachronism inevitably implies a form of a-historic moralism.

    For more information contact: Willem de Haan

  • The Wheel of Restoration

    In this project I depart from the assumption that there are three basic ways of dealing with past injustice. First of all, we can try to forget the past; that is, to ignore or to deny what has happened, in a desire to establish order after a period of serious conflict. Secondly, we can endeavor to remember the injustice of the past and commit ourselves to justice by trying to restore past wrongs as far as humanly possible. And lastly we can take a more reconciliatory attitude in a quest for enduring peace. In that case we try to deal with the past in order to overcome it; that is, with an eye to a common future. These three attitudes are very human and reflect the vicissitudes of everyday life. However, phenomena such as forgetting, remembering and reconciling not only play a role at a mundane, individual level, but also figure prominently at a collective (or state) level in post-conflict contexts.

    In the Wheel of Restoration as a theoretical model, it is taken for granted that, at this macro or collective level, one of these attitudes always dominates the other two. In their collective outlook, all three have their strengths and weaknesses. They operate as paradigms tied to specific historic eras and to specific social, political and economic circumstances and, as such, are relatively difficult to influence. Moreover, each has its own specific relationship with the past, present and future. In a context of collective forgetting, for example, there is a clear focus on the present, while the connection to the injustice of the past is somehow suspended. An era marked by public remembering, on the other hand, is preoccupied by the past and generally aspires to correct past wrongs, preferably by punishing the perpetrators (retribution) and by undoing (if possible) the wrongs committed. In such a backward-looking approach, restitution-in-kind is the preferred way to do justice to former owners (or heirs) who have been deprived of their property rights in a context of extreme injustice. Lastly, in a context of reconciliation, the dominant timeframe is clearly the common future. In an era of reconciliation, restoration of the status quo ante is not the primary goal. The injustice of the past will usually be addressed in a way that helps lay the foundation for a common future, in which the past injustice can be overcome. In this future-oriented approach, redistribution rather than restitution of property rights is seen as more appropriate. There is no need, in such a process of redistribution, to stick rigidly to the past as other factors, relating both to the present and the future, can also be brought into play.

    This (book) project aims to elaborate on the role of law in this model – departing from the presupposition that human beings are in need of having access to past, present and future when confronted with a violent past. How can legal institutions operate as ‘game changers’ and put the Wheel of Restoration in motion to the benefit of all?

    For more information on the project contact Wouter Veraart

  • Risky or at risk? Prevention of intergenerational transmission of violent extremist ideologies through child protection measures

    This project focuses on the (prevention) of intergenerational transmission of violent extremist ideologies through child protection measures.

    The aim of the project, to be reached by combining empirical legal and criminological research, is threefold. First, it aims to compare the legal basis on which governmental institutions in a variety of Western-European countries can intervene in the private (family) life of radicalized individuals and their children. Second, it aims to give an overview of recent state interventions and the justifications for intervening. Third, it aims to shed light on the circumstances under which violent extremist ideologies are transmitted to the next generation.

    Together, findings will lay the foundation for a legal framework for the prevention of child radicalization within the family-domain, one that is empirically based and balances the rights of children, their parents and society. Moreover, the project will contribute to the development of a tool assessing the risk of intergenerational transmission of radicalization, taking into account risk-enhancing and risk-reducing (i.e. protective) factors.