‘If I would stay alive, I would be their voice’: On the legitimacy of international People’s Tribunals

Aldo Zammit Borda, Stefan Mandelbaum

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In recent years there has been a proliferation of People’s Tribunals (PTs), promising to address atrocities that have fallen through the net of a statist international legal order. However, the status of such informal tribunals has remained controversial in both literature and practice. The dominant view has been that PTs simply lack legitimate authority. Positing that, in the language game of legitimacy, PTs are put on a perpetual argumentative backfoot, this article examines aspects of their input, process and output legitimacy. It is argued that the right of victims-survivors to be heard reigns supreme and it is in upholding that right that the authority of PTs is legitimised. In the current state of international justice, PTs constitute indispensable, quasi-judicial institutions that bridge gaps in access to justice, challenge official narratives (or silences) about atrocities and, potentially, open up new avenues towards justice and recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-84
Number of pages18
JournalModern Law Review
Issue number1
Early online date29 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • People’s Tribunals
  • legitimacy
  • access to justice
  • legal pluralism
  • gross human rights abuses

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