Audio Judge Kevin Parker speaks about remorse and forgiveness, 2008

TLF ID R9897

This is an edited sound recording of Kevin Parker, vice-president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), describing how most people accused of human rights violations before the ICTY have not been remorseful. He suggests that it is therefore difficult for the victims of abuses to offer forgiveness. However, Parker believes that the ICTY is helping new generations to recognise past wrongs and to look to a better future with remorse and forgiveness. The recording was made in July 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This recording provides firsthand observations of the reactions of people accused of committing grave human rights crimes in the early 1990s during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Parker (1937-) says that some people were genuinely remorseful and 'very gravely disturbed' by what they had done, but that most people were not remorseful and believed that their actions had been a necessary part of 'pursuing a great political cause'.
  • Crimes tried in the ICTY have included massacres, forced movement of large-scale populations and destruction of civilian property. Parker says that when people do not show remorse for committing such crimes, it is difficult for forgiveness to follow. He says, however, that he can see different attitudes emerging among younger people.
  • The ICTY has been a major contributor to the relatively new field of 'international transitional justice'. This is a means by which the international community responds to gross human rights violations, with one aim being promotion of peace and reconciliation in the affected communities. The comments by Parker in this recording indicate his belief that this process is being helped by the ICTY, but reconciliation may take several generations.
  • The extent to which the ICTY promotes reconciliation between former warring parties is a matter of academic debate. Some academics have concluded that there is little evidence of any effect on reconciliation. Others have suggested ICTY judgements may even exacerbate tensions by perpetuating the concept of 'collective guilt', even although individuals are tried on the basis of their personal responsibility.
  • The ICTY was set up by a resolution of the United Nations Security Council in 1993. Based in The Hague in the Netherlands, its objective is to bring to justice individuals responsible for serious breaches of international humanitarian law during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. The ICTY states that it is helping to dismantle a tradition of impunity, and is holding individuals accountable regardless of their previous or current positions.
  • The ICTY says that its work has progressively contributed to a historical record, establishing beyond reasonable doubt facts about conflicts that were once subject to dispute. The tribunal argues that the determination of facts is crucial in combating denial and preventing revisionism. More than 3,500 witnesses have testified during trials and another 1,400 potential witnesses have been interviewed by prosecutors.

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  • Person: Kevin Parker
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