Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Inquiry and International Law

How do commissions of inquiry operating in conflict situations utilize international law, and how can inquiry findings be utilized by other bodies belonging to the international legal community?

2013 - 2016
Larissa van den Herik

The Inquiry Research Project grew out of a shared project with The Hague Institute for Global Justice, ‘From Fact-Finding to Evidence: Harmonizing Multiple Investigations of International Crimes’, with support from the Open Society Justice Initiative.

Fact-finding is an important part of the human rights compliance toolbox and peace maintenance and crisis management more generally. Fact-finding missions can raise alert regarding situations of crisis and violations of international law. They can also promote accountability for those responsible, such as recommending prosecutions of international crimes, or offer alternative conflict narratives. This project explores different uses and functions of inquiry, and investigates in particular how inquiries interact with the system of international law. 
Prosecutions are emerging as a pre-eminent justice mechanism in conflict situations to establish accountability for international crimes. Alongside judicial bodies, independent fact-finding bodies such as international commissions of inquiry also investigate alleged violations of international law, including those that may amount to international crimes. While fact-finding is an increasingly popular tool to respond to crisis situations, the subject remains under-researched and under-theorised.  

The Inquiry Research Project tackles a range of issues in connection with inquiries into facts that underlie the commission of human rights violations and international crimes. The Project explores fact-finding purposes and functions, fact-finding methodologies, fact-finders’ engagement with international legal norms and the phenomenon of multiple investigations. It considers, inter alia, the institutional and normative links between human rights fact-finding and international criminal prosecutions, and explores how shared objectives of accountability can be more effectively realized.

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