Research Guide to International Courts, Tribunals and Truth & Reconciliation Commissions

February 21, 2013 | Katherine

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Getting Started

International Courts and Tribunals are generally established by the United Nations to investigate and try war crimes and crimes against humanity. Examples include the Nuremberg Military Tribunal to try Nazi war crimes, and the International Criminal Court.

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions are established by governments to investigate wrongdoings by past governments. The commissions are part of a process of transitional justice. Truth and reconciliation commissions are not courts although they often address the issue of whether perpetrators of crimes and injustices should be brought to trial.

Areas covered by international courts and tribunals include:

  • War crimes and crimes against humanity
  • Human rights violations
  • Trade disputes between governments
  • Armed conflicts between states

Definitions of War Crimes, Laws, and Treaties

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:  Full text of the United Nations convention on genocide.

International Humanitarian Law—Treaties & Documents: The Geneva Conventions and other treaties from the International Committee of the Red Cross. The conventions and treaties focus on the protection of victims of war, including civilians and prisoners of war, methods and means of war, etc.

Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project (RULAC):  Full-text documents on international humanitarian, human rights, criminal, and refugee law.  Full-text articles address various aspects of international law in armed conflicts. Database allows researchers to pick a country and find out what armed conflicts it is now involved in and what aspects of domestic and international law are applicable.

Searching the Library Website

    Suggested Subject Headings and Keywords

Many terms in this list can also be combined with geographic locations e.g. Human rights--Rwanda.You can use the filters that appear on the left of the results screen to further limit your search results by Type (e.g. Books, Movies and Videos), Language, Age Level, Library Branch, and Subject.

Suggested Titles

Court of remorse    Human rights    Missing souls Peace and justice 2        






All the missing souls: a personal history of the war crimes tribunals

Atrocities and international accountability: beyond transitional justice

Court of remorse : inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Human rights in international relations, 3rd ed.

The international judge : an introduction to the men and women who decide the world's cases

International judicial institutions : the architecture of international justice at home and abroad

International law : contemporary issues and future developments

Judging war, judging history: behind truth and reconciliation

Peace and justice at the International Criminal Court: a court of last resort

Peace versus justice? : the dilemma of transitional justice in Africa

  Judging war  Peace vs justice        International law Jud insitutions







Additional Online Sources

Present International Courts for War Crimes:

International Criminal Court:   Established by the United Nations to examine cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Site contains full-text procedural rules, cases from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Central African Republic, Darfur (Sudan), and Libya.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Special Court for Sierra Leone  

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

The first three courts above have been established by the United Nations to try cases of war crimes, while the fourth court was established by the Cambodian government, with United Nations assistance, to try those accused of committing atrocities under the Khmer Rouge government. All sites contain case transcripts, historical investigations, procedural rules, reports, and newsletters.

    Truth and Reconciliation Commissions & Transitional Justice: 

African Transitional Justice Network

International Center for Transitional Justice: Investigates legacies of mass abuse of human rights in many countries. Included are news and research articles, links to truth and reconciliation commissions, annual reports.

International Crisis Group: Includes materials on transitional justice along with links to truth and reconciliation commissions.

Transitional Justice in Africa: the experience with Truth Commissions: Provides overview of transitional justice issues in Africa, full-text articles, links to government and non-government resources.

    War Crimes & Mass Violence:

Armenian National Institute: Reports by diplomats, survivors, journalists, and photographs, maps and other full-text materials on the Armenien genocide during World War One.

Frederick K. Cox International Law Center: War Crimes Research Portal: Annotated lists for topics such as the Armenian genocide of 1915, the Jewish Holocaust, war crimes in the Vietnam and Iraq wars, protection of civilians, war crimes tribunals and trials.

Institute for Research of Expelled Germans: Full-text articles about 10 million ethnic Germans deported from Eastern European countries after World War Two.

Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence: Scholarly work in progress featuring chronologies, case studies, country reports, theoretical papers, reviews of the history of different mass killings.

Rutgers University—Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution & Human Rights—Forgotten Genocides Project: Case studies of several lesser known genocides—the Assyrians of Iraq and Turkey; Circassians in the Russian Empire; Greeks in the Ottoman Empire; Kurds in Iraq.  

Yale University—Genocide Study Program: Several genocide research projects, including colonial genocides committed against indigenous peoples along with genocides committed since World War II. 

Nazi War Crimes and the Nuremberg Military Tribunal

Library of Congress—Military Legal Resources—Nuremberg Trials: Complete American records of the trials of Nazi war criminals including the trial of the major criminals (Hermann Goering and 21 other defendants). 

Library of Congress—Military Legal Resources—Law Reports of trials of War Criminals: Records for trials of war criminals in Germany and Japan during the late 1940s as compiled by the United Nations War Crimes Commission. 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Government documents, personal testimonies, photos, and other resources about the Jewish Holocaust. Also much primary and secondary material about Roma (Gypsies), gays, the disabled, and other victims of Nazism. 

Yad Vashem: the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority: Based in Israel, the Yad Vashem site on the Jewish Holocaust contains full-text documents, diaries, eyewitness accounts, registers of names, academic studies. 

    Investigation of crimes committed in the Former Soviet Union & Eastern European countries

With the exception of the former Yugoslavia, there have been no war crimes trials in the former Soviet Union and former Eastern European Communist countries. Nor have truth and reconciliation commissions been established. However, there are government and non-government groups that are investigating crimes of the Communist period.

Memorial: Full-text documents (almost entirely in Russian) include lists of executed people (with Joseph Stalin’s signature), lists & biographies of arrested political opponents & religious leaders, police reports & minutes of meetings of leaders of the Communist Party.

Against their will: the history and geography of forced migrations in the USSR by Pavel Polian: Full text in Russian of Polian’s monograph about the mass deportations of peasants, ethnic minorities, and other groups by the Soviet government. 

Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation: Related Links: Many of these sites are online museums, while others are run by government commissions investigating both Nazi and Communist crimes. Sites contain full-text documents and photographs along with links to the former security services. Much material is available in English.



For further assistance contact:

Humanities & Social Science Department, Toronto Reference Library
trlhss @ 


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