On March 5, 2020, PJI Co-Director spoke at Yale Law School on the topic of Mass Atrocities in the Age of Social Media: Prevention, Response, and Accountability.
Dr. Roberts’s presentation focused on accountability. She reviewed some of the considerations that litigators might take into account when choosing to bring actions for atrocities in national versus international or foreign jurisdictions. Such considerations include qualification of international crimes, challenges relating to the context of mass atrocities, local investigative infrastructure, security threats, structural barriers, and resource constraints. Further, investigation of atrocity crimes for the purposes of accountability often must be pursued without secure knowledge as to the jurisdiction in which such crimes might ultimately be tried, if any.
Assuming there is an effective jurisdiction over a particular suspect, and assuming that person is a priority for prosecution, holding that person accountable for an international crime requires proving not only the fact of the crime but also their personal involvement. Usually this means proving the suspect’s participation in the crime, though commanders may be held responsible for failure of their duty to prevent their subordinates from committing such crimes, or failure to punish them afterward. Social media can play a role, for example, by providing evidence of a commander’s knowledge that such crimes were being committed. But the proliferation of social media does not automatically translate into better or even useful evidence in a court of law.