Sofia StolkMay 13, 2022
The Opening Statement of the Prosecution in International Criminal Trials
A Solemn Tale of Horror
Dr. Sofia Stolk’s The Opening Statement of the Prosecution in International Criminal Trials: A Solemn Tale of Horror (Routledge, 2021) addresses the discursive importance of the prosecution’s opening statement before an international criminal tribunal. Opening statements are considered to be largely irrelevant to the official legal proceedings but are simultaneously deployed to frame important historical events. They are widely cited in international media as well as academic texts; yet have been ignored by legal scholars as objects of study in their own right. Dr. Stolk aims to remedy this neglect, by analysing the narrative that is articulated in the opening statements of different prosecutors at different tribunals in different times.
This book aims to magnify the story of the opening statement where it becomes ambiguous, circular, repetition, self-referential, incomplete, and inescapable. It aims to uncover the specificities of a discourse that is built on and rebuilds paradoxes, to illuminate some of the absurdities that mark the foundations of the opening statements’ celebration of reason. More generally, it aims to show how the contradiction in the opening statement reflects foundational tensions that are productive and constituative of the field of international criminal law more broadly. Above all, [this book] shows how the opening statement aims to provide certainty where there is none.
The book takes an interdisciplinary approach and looks at the meaning of the opening narrative beyond its function in the legal process in a strict sense, discussing the ways in which the trial is situated in time and space and how it portrays the main characters. Dr. Stolk shows how perpetrators and victims, places and histories, are juridified in a narrative that, whilst purporting to legitimise the trial, the tribunal and international criminal law itself, is beset with tensions and contradictions.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.