International peoples' tribunals in Asia: Political theatre, juridical farce, or meaningful intervention?

Gabrielle Simm, Andrew Byrnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Since the 1960s, over eighty international peoples' tribunals have been established outside formal state and international structures. Many have drawn on the forms and procedures of state-sponsored international tribunals and investigated whether states, international organizations, and transnational corporations have violated established norms of international law, while also seeking to infuse it with more progressive values. This paper first provides an overview of the history of international peoples' tribunals in Asia, then examines three tribunals that have focused on situations in Asia. We argue that not only do peoples' tribunals respond to a perceived gap in official structures of accountability, but they also perform other functions. These include building solidarity and networks, and recording and memorializing otherwise unacknowledged experiences. Further, such tribunals not only engage in holding states and others accountable informally but also articulate claims about the right of civil society to "own", interpret, and develop international law.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-124
Number of pages22
JournalAsian Journal of International Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


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