Pictures of Peace and Justice Documentation, Evidence and Impact of Visual Material in International War Crimes Prosecution

Award Holder

Professor James Gow


Higher Education Institute

King's College London


This project builds on three previous projects: an AHRC funded project on War Crimes, a US Institute for Peace funded project on the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and an ESRC project on media and security, which produced research findings on moving images in relation to war crimes and transitional justice.

The project is a pilot study to investigate the importance of visual material vis a vis other types of material at three stages of the process of establishing internationalised judicial processes (i.e. international courts and domestic processes with both significant international input and context).

The first of these is the context in which these judicial bodies are created. The second is the conduct of trials. The third is the impact beyond the courtroom on issues of peace and security.

The project will (i) identify, document, critically appraise and create data sets of examples of visual evidence at each of the three stages identified; (ii) conduct semi-structured interviews with judicial, policy, media and military-security practitioners to investigate knowledge, understanding and judgement on the relative importance of visual material at each of the three stages; (iii) carry out focus group research to investigate beliefs, values and attitudes regarding particular examples of visual evidence, in light of stages (i) and (ii), including generating processes and cases, use as evidence in trials, and impact on post-conflict societies and communities.

The pilot project will test the feasibility and potential significance of research in this area for a subsequent larger research funding proposal. As a pilot project, the scope will be limited to investigation of these issues primarily in relation to the mid-twentieth century cases of Germany and Japan, where established research and resources will be exploited, and the late-twentieth and twenty-first century cases of the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, where the Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator have extensive research experience.

Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.