In this article, the author analyzes the following paradox: to convey an unambiguous historical “truth” to its audience, the trial will have to silence the accused. But in such case, it ends up as a show trial. In order for the trial to be legitimate, the accused must be entitled to speak. But in that case, he will be able to challenge the version of truth represented by the prosecutor and relativise the guilt that is thrust upon him by the powers on whose strength the Tribunal stands. His will be the truth of the revolution and he himself a martyr for the revolutionary cause.
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Interdisciplinary approaches often bemoan international law’s lack of theoretical sophistication and naïve utopianism. Instead of offering effective tools of governance, it seems committed to outdated ideas about an international public realm and a dubious teleology of progress. This essay – given as the E. H. Carr lecture at the University of Aberystwyth in 2011 – reviews efforts to reform international law into a science and a more efficient instrument of international rule. Such efforts have been a part of international law’s internal development but their lack of success depends on a mistaken view of the field as a ‘discipline’ − a set of theoretical or technical propositions. This essay defends a view of international law as an argumentative practice in which political claims are defended and attacked, rather than as a governance tool or institutional blueprint. At its worst, law may buttress bureaucratic privilege. At its best it may offer, for a cynical world, a vocabulary for imagining better futures. It may also sharpen political thought and strategic awareness, but it cannot replace them.