New blog on fact-finding and armed conflict

About the author(s):

Rogier is a researcher at the Netherlands Defence Academy (NLDA) and works at the Dutch National Prosecutor’s Office. He holds LL.M-degrees from Utrecht University and the University of Nottingham. Before taking up his current positions, he was an associate legal officer in Chambers at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and a legal adviser at the International Humanitarian Law Division of the Netherlands Red Cross.

Rogier is an adjunct-lecturer at the Hague University of Applied Sciences, where he teaches international humanitarian law, and he co-convenes the Hague Initiative for Law and Armed Conflict.

The blog “The Art of Facts” deals with fact-finding and armed conflicts and was recently set up by a friend of mine: Dr Theo Boutruche, an IHL lawyer and one of the organisers of the well-known Jean Pictet competition, who has done numerous fact-finding missions and currently works as legal adviser for REDRESS. This legal blog has the following aim:

Fact-finding about allegations of abuses in times of war is not new. What’s strikingly new is the proliferation of actors engaged in human rights fact-finding, with many distinct agendas. So this could well be the Golden Age of human rights fact-finding, unfortunately this would also mean that there are too many violations to investigate.

Fact-finding raises a myriad of issues and debates that deserve more attention: from the impact of social media on human rights monitoring to the limitations of international criminal trials in establishing the truth. The need to design tools for a better harmonization of fact-finding practices in line with ethical principles and to analyze further the link between human rights fact-finding and international criminal prosecutions are some of the questions addressed by various initiatives such as those by the Harvard Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research and the Hague Institute for Global Justice.

This blog will modestly try to put into perspective some of the developments in the area of human rights fact-finding, such as the possible use of satellite heat sensors to detect attacks on villages or the challenges in proving the violations of certain international humanitarian law norms.

But make no mistake, this blog is also moved by my experience in the field, talking to victims who are often left with only one thing… their story to tell. This blog is about those who seek the truth in the mist of claims and counter claims made by all parties to a conflict; a truth as a tribute to the dead and the survivors.

The first posts mainly focus on the reporting on the use of chemical weapons in Syria (see here), as well as fact-finding and the applicable law itself (see here). I am looking forward to reading more.

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