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"We are not a Truth Commission": fragmented narratives and the historical record at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-07, 16:35 authored by Nigel Eltringham
Legal practitioners at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) are exercised by the question of whether their endeavour should seek to intentionally create an 'historical record'. Their views are framed by a supposed distinction between Truth Commissions and Trials and by the assumption that the practice and method of law and historiography are distinct. Such distinctions are, however, unsustainable given that both trials and Truth Commissions require coercive, enticed remembering and that both the lawyer and historian vicariously re-enact the past in the search for meaning. Similarly, the methodology of the oral historian is not distinct from that employed in a trial. And yet, the apparent celebration of orality at the ICTR is matched by a desire to instantaneously convert mutable speech into immutable text. While the ultimate mutable text, the judgement, declares a legal finality, it intentionally directs the reader to the process of fact discovery preserved in a globally accessible, digital database. While there remains a tension between the digital archive and its physical shadow, an historical record awaits consumption. The question, however, remains who will the consumers be and to what purpose will this record be put?
JournalJournal of Genocide Research
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Department affiliated with
- Anthropology Publications
NotesPart of Special Issue edited by Eltringham: Identity, Justice and “Reconciliation” in Contemporary Rwanda. Submitted with introduction.
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