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Language, culture, legal traditions and international criminal justice.

Bohlander, Michael (2014) 'Language, culture, legal traditions and international criminal justice.', Journal of international criminal justice., 12 (3). pp. 491-513.


Our view of the world is to a large degree a function of our own language and culture. English has become the lingua franca in international legal academic and practical dialogue, and there is a related concern that English — or its direct descendant, Anglo-American — intellectual and legal culture has drawn a thick veneer over the canvas of international criminal law as well. The differences in linguistic and cultural influence need attention as they are a primary determinant of the dialogue that constitutes international justice, not merely in form but possibly also in substance. The conversation, even in the lingua franca, does not seem to happen with the same intensity from all sides to the exchange, because in addition to the question of ability to engage there seems to be a difference in willingness or interest based not merely on lack of language command, but possibly also on cultural aversion. The main systemic divide in the conversations in international criminal law still lies in the dichotomy between common and civil law, and coinciding with that, between a practical/pragmatic approach on the one hand, and a doctrinal/principled attitude on the other. This article attempts to elaborate on some of the conceptual and cultural differences beyond the superficial labels often used in the discussion, such as ‘adversarial v. inquisitorial’, ‘statute v. judge-made law’ etc., as they may impact on the creation of international criminal law.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of International Criminal Justice following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Bohlander, Michael (2014) 'Language, culture, legal traditions and international criminal justice.', Journal of international criminal justice, 12 (3): 491-513 is available online at:
Date accepted:08 May 2014
Date deposited:28 August 2014
Date of first online publication:12 June 2014
Date first made open access:12 June 2016

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