Gabriele Chlevickaite

Winner Dissertation Prize 2023

Insider Witnesses Reliability and Credibility – An empirical legal framework for international criminal justice 

Supervisor: Prof. dr. C.C.J.H. Bijleveld
Co-supervisor: Dr. mr. B. Hola
Nomination: Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, Faculty of Law

Report by the selection committee

We live at a time when relations between citizens and government, between citizens themselves, but also between states, are under great tension and the law is given a crucial role. It suffices here to point to recent court cases on environmental policy, or the actual deployment of the International Criminal Court against Russia.

In her pioneering and multidisciplinary dissertation, Chlevickaite examines one of the key questions in prosecuting and punishing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide: how does a judge establish facts, or, more specifically, how is the credibility and reliability of testimonies assessed, especially the testimonies of so-called ‘insider’ witnesses in the context of International Criminal Justice. How is this done in practice and how could it be done better?

Chlevickaite approached these crucial questions via a multidisciplinary exploration of the literature on witnessing in a general sense; a systematic examination of the trial judgments of international courts, to find out how testimonies are assessed and used (or not) by judges; and an experimental track in which fictitious cases were presented to over 160 international criminal justice professionals, with the aim of arriving at an ‘insider witness evidence assessment model’.

Her thesis is not only highly original, but also compact and well-written. Moreover, it is relevant not only to the specific category it focuses on – insider witnesses in the context of International Criminal Justice – but actually to all testimony in legal and non-legal matters, as can be seen from the rather mournful situational sketches in the first chapters of the book.

In short, this is an important and challenging dissertation, excellent research, groundbreaking and highly relevant for the practice and future of international tribunals. The insights Gabriele Chlevickaite puts before the reader, when it comes to how to ascertain reliable and credible facts, can definitely contribute to the quality of trials and thus to doing justice.

For all these reasons, the jury for the Dissertation Prizes 2023 of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation decided to award one of its five dissertation prizes to Insider Witnesses Reliability and Credibility by Gabriele Chlevickaite.