Tag: ‘exhumations’

New Opinion Piece: “Lessons for Uganda from Post-Genocide Rwanda”

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

The Uganda-based Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP) has recently launched its third issue of Voices Magazine to promote local perspectives on “the Right to Know” – its recent campaign to “draw attention to the significance of truth-seeking and missing persons in the transitional justice discourse in Uganda” (Ojok, 4). Throughout the volume, truth-telling is highlighted as a key means of promoting social reconstruction in the region. However, what form or forms should this truth-telling process take?

As a partial response to this question, I was asked by JRP to contribute a brief opinion piece on the various lessons that can be gleaned from international and domestic efforts to locate and commemorate the missing victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and related mass atrocities. I argue that for many survivors, some form of identification will be necessary in order to allow them to accept the deaths of their missing loved ones. Forensic investigations may be a suitable possibility, but caution is necessary. Collaboration with survivor communities should be encouraged in order to ensure that the  investigations are culturally and politically appropriate and do not inadvertently contribute to the deepening of divisions among Ugandans. And in choosing appropriate vehicles for commemoration, a similar strategy should be employed. While nationalized commemoration is often perceived to be an essential and beneficial part of the transitional justice toolkit, its positive potential can only be realized if the surrounding communities support the form and function of the resulting commemorative sites and events. And of greatest importance, such initiatives will undoubtedly require genuine political support at the  international and domestic levels.

New Contribution: “Forensic Investigations” in The Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Lavinia Stan and Nadya Nedelsky’s Encyclopedia of Transitional Justice has just been published through Cambridge University Press. It is a three volume reference collection that provides overviews of transitional justice terminology, methods and practices, and theoretical debates and key questions, as well as brief summaries of how transitional justice theories and methods have been applied in particular conflict settings, from Rwanda to Bosnia-Hercegovina.

It also includes a brief piece on Forensic Investigations – my first real attempt at bringing international and domestic forensic investigations that are applied in the aftermath of mass human rights violations into conversation with transitional justice discourses. For those of you who are interested in it, but who can’t afford the cost of the three volume set, feel free to contact me and I’ll pass along the final pdf version.

New Discussion Paper: Promoting Reconciliation Through Exhuming and Identifying Victims in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

The Centre for International Governance Innovation has recently published my discussion paper, which offers an overview of three different phases of exhumations that have taken place in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide. Drawing upon qualitative data resulting from interviews with approximately twenty survivors from Kibuye, as well as meetings with Rwandan government officials, aid workers, and other relevant experts, it argues that previous efforts to exhume and rebury with respect the anonymous victims of the genocide have failed to adequately address the harms affecting survivors. In particular, survivors desire new exhumations that prioritize locating and providing definitive identifications of the victims, after which point the remains should be returned to survivors to rebury in the manner of their choosing. This discussion paper represents an important first step toward bringing exhumations into conversation with transitional justice discourses, and advances an ongoing conversation regarding the state of social reconstruction in post-genocide Rwanda.

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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