International Legal History: From Atrocity Reports to War Crimes Tribunals—The Roots of Modern War Crimes Investigations in Nineteenth-Century Legal Activism and First World War Propaganda
This chapter first addresses the history of international criminal law and war crimes investigations, which used to be primarily written by lawyers seeking precedents for the Nuremberg tribunal. However, new approaches are currently transforming this field. The second section outlines an alternative history of the origins of war crimes tribunals, emphasizing the effect of the codification of the laws of war in the late nineteenth century. The final section explores the origins of atrocity reports, the predecessors of current human rights fact-finding, and their dual nature as both legal and political texts. It highlights the deep entanglement of their development with the atrocity propaganda of the First World War, with a particular focus on the two Bryce reports on Belgium and Armenia.