Assessing testimonial evidence in asylum proceedings: Guiding standards from the international criminal tribunals

Rosemary Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although credibility determinations rest at the core of refugee protection, international refugee law has failed to develop a body of evidentiary principles that is tailored to the unique dimensions of the testimony of those seeking asylum. This article examines recent developments in assessing oral testimony in international criminal law. International criminal law judges, like national asylum adjudicators, must transcend geographic, linguistic, cultural, educational and psychological barriers in order to assess the credibility of testimony. As a result, these new international courts have developed a body of principles of international evidence law for assessing the testimony of alleged victims of, and witnesses to, human rights abuses. Current social science research on the asylum procedures in several jurisdictions reveals that asylum decision makers often fail to adapt the determination process to account for the realities of refugees presenting their cases in legal fora, directing proceedings with a 'presumptive skepticism' of claims. It is argued that the nuanced and rigourous model for the assessment of the testimonial evidence of alleged victims and witnesses of human rights abuses in war crimes trials introduces effective international norms for the assessment of credibility in asylum proceedings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-638
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of Refugee Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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