Doctoral Dissertation Research in Law and Social Sciences: Accountability in Multiple Fora After Extreme Mass Behavior


Jack Snyder
Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Relations
Kathleen Cronin-Furman
Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University


The second half of the 20th century saw a shift from an international system in which acts of mass extreme behavior were considered unpunishable to one in which they are generally viewed as criminally culpable conduct. When events become public, the states where they occur are now beset by calls to either prosecute those responsible or allow an international court to do so.
Despite the growing consensus on the need for justice, the record of accountability for extreme mass acts has been very uneven. Courts are sometimes set up precisely for the purpose of accountability during wartime, yet the courts may not hear cases concerning related events from neighboring countries. While many have argued that a global norm requiring accountability after extreme mass behavior has developed and taken hold over the past few decades, that claim does not account for the different accountability outcomes pairs of seemingly similar, nearly simultaneously-occurring, cases. Because accountability mechanisms are an increasingly high profile feature of the global landscape, explaining when and how accountability is provided in the aftermath of mass extreme behavior will be a significant contribution to the study of international and transitional justice. This project relies upon a strategic theory of accountability that integrates the range of possible outcomes and the role of bargaining between domestic and international actors. The project evaluates state accountability behavior in the aftermath of mass atrocity, and international audiences' reactions. The project employs a mixed methods approach, using quantitative analysis of an original dataset to identify broad patterns in the data, and process-tracing of case studies constructed through fieldwork to explain causation.