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DISSECT: Evidence in International Human Rights Adjudication

Evidence is at the heart of adjudication, and adjudication at the heart of the international protection of human rights. Yet evidence in international human rights (IHR) adjudication has never been comprehensively studied. Benefiting from the support of highest-level figures in the relevant institutions, DISSECT is a ground-breaking research programme which will capture the evidentiary regimes in place in the world’s three regional human rights courts and in UN human rights quasi-judicial bodies.

First, DISSECT will examine from a purely legal perspective the formal and informal rules and practices (‘regime’) which govern the treatment of evidence in IHR adjudication – burden and standard of proof and evidence admissibility, collection, submission, assessment and scope. It will do so across institutions, types of complaints and time.

Second, it will examine the political underpinnings and uses of the IHR evidentiary regime, including dismissals of politically sensitive complaints on the pretext that they are not sufficiently evidenced by the victim.

Third, it will identify ‘best’ and ‘worst’ practices and generate specific recommendations for use in IHR adjudication.

Fourth, it will develop new insights on evidence, truth and power and thus create a new strand in Critical Legal Studies.

These ambitious aims will be achieved by harnessing not only legal doctrinal methods of research but also, and crucially, the PI’s rare double training as a lawyer and an anthropologist. This will allow the IHR evidentiary regime to be studied as a social phenomenon (rather than merely ‘in context’). DISSECT is urgently needed by victims of human rights abuse who seek international redress without knowing exactly what evidence is required of them, as well as by IHR adjudicatory bodies at risk of losing their legitimacy if they cannot demonstrate that they are acting logically, consistently and fairly. Current concerns over ‘truth decay’ make it particularly timely. 

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