Archive: July, 2012

International Forensic Investigations on Trial: The Case of Rwanda

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
KIBUYE, RWANDA - Albertine Mukakamanzi walks away from Urusengero Catholic Church where the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda has laid down clothes from exhumated bodies for identification in February 1996.

AP Photo/Jean-Marc Bouju.

In recent years, the use of testimonial evidence in international criminal trials has come under fire for what Nancy Combs characterizes as its “highly questionable reliability.” In brief, Combs argument is that the accuracy of eyewitness and informant testimonies is too frequently compromised by their reliance on human memory, and their susceptibility to the agendas of individual narrators and the legal teams that elicit them. Her position is reminiscent of similar debates that occurred surrounding the emergence of oral history as a discipline. However, whereas oral historians were able to satisfy themselves with the conclusion that the relevance of testimonies lay in understanding how and why they were constructed (rather than their factual accuracy), practitioners of international criminal law find themselves with one more reason to shore up their cases with more rigorous forms of physical evidence. (more…)


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