Informers Up Close

Mark A. Drumbl (Washington & Lee University)​

Picture of Mark A. Drumbl

Mark Drumbl will present a book he co-authored with Barbora Holá, forthcoming with Oxford University Press, entitled Informers up Close: Stories from Communist Prague.

Informers contribute to the power of repressive regimes. While informers may themselves be victims, and are enlisted by the state, their actions cause other individuals to suffer significant harm. Informers, then, are central to the proliferation of endemic human rights abuses. Through a case-study of Communist Czechoslovakia (1945-1989)—and drawing from secret police archives, oral histories, and a broad gamut of secondary sources—this book unearths what fuels informers to speak to authorities in repressive times and considers how transitional justice should approach informers once repression ends and a successor regime emerges. This book unravels the complex drivers behind informing and the dynamics of societal reactions to informing. It explores the agency of both informers and secret police officers. By presenting informers ‘up close,’ and the relationships between informers and secret police officers in high resolution granularity, this book centres the role of emotions in informer motivations and underscores the value of dignity in transitional reconstruction. This book also leverages research from informing in authoritarian states to better understand informing in so-called liberal democratic states which, after all, also rely on informers to maintain law, prevail in armed conflict, and preserve order.

Mark A. Drumbl is the Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and Director of the Transnational Law Institute at Washington and Lee University, Virginia, USA. He has been a Visiting Scholar at Oxford, Université de Paris, Free University of Amsterdam, University of Melbourne, and Queen’s University Belfast. He has written over 100 articles and book chapters. He authored Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law (CUP, 2007) and Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy (OUP, 2012), both of which have been extensively reviewed. His work has been relied upon by national and international courts, he has served as an expert witness in trial litigation and as an expert in treaty drafting, represented clients in genocide prosecutions and public inquiries, and consulted with the UN and OSCE.​

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