Truth and Victims' Rights: Towards a Legal Epistemology of International Criminal Justice

Edgar R. Aguilera


The author advances the thesis that the now well established international crime victims’ right to know the truth creates an opportunity for an applied epistemology reflection regarding international criminal justice. At the heart of the project lies the author’s argument that this victims’ right —if taken seriously— implies both the right that the international criminal justice system’s normative structures or legal frameworks and practices feature a truth-promoting profile, or in other words, that they be designed, specified, and harmonized so as to enable the system as a whole to regularly lead to the formation of (fallible, though more likely) true beliefs about the world (both when it convicts and when it acquits); and a duty for the international community to implement the best epistemically-suited set of procedural and evidentiary rules and practices when it engages in the enterprise of engineering and setting in place international criminal tribunals, panels, chambers, or special courts. The author suggests that the research of the epistemologist Larry Laudan is quite relevant to the aims of the above project in that it outlines the general contours of a truth-promoting profile applicable to all instances of empirical systems of investigation. By contrasting Laudan’s guidelines with the legal frameworks and practices of some international criminal tribunals, the author holds (though of course more research is needed) both that the victims’ right to know the truth is being systematically transgressed at the international level in that these international institutions do not seem to possess an acceptable truth-promoting profile as one of their attributes; and that endowing them with such a profile is one of the ways in which the international community can pay its respects to victims’ concerns.


Applied epistemology; legal epistemology; victims’ rights; truth and international criminal justice; epistemic principles and legal proceedings

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