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Oxford University Press




It has been argued that international law has recently "come of age", that it is a fully-fledged legal system like any other. It has also been argued that in order for a normative system to qualify as "law" it must, at the least, claim to possess legitimate authority and to be supreme to other normative systems. This article examines one highly visible development in international law - the criminal war trials - from a sociological perspective, trying to discern whether and how international law claims legitimate authority and supremacy. Specifically, it focuses on a deeply symbolic example of international criminal adjudication: the Milosevic trial. The article offers a sociological reading of the symbolism of the interpersonal dynamics of the Milosevic trial and concludes that what is in fact attempted, and perhaps achieved, through internationalizing the transitional-justice trials is the internationalization of the transition process itself. The subject of the transition from an illiberal and illegitimate regime to a liberal and legitimate one is not in fact the former-Yugoslavia, but the 'international community' itself. The rule of law that the ICTY seeks to vindicate is not only law as such, and not necessarily the law of the former-Yugoslavia, but the rule of international law.

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