Cross-Examining the Past: Transitional Justice, Mass Atrocity Trials and History in Africa

Onderzoeksoutput: PhD Thesis (Proefschrift)PhD thesis (Proefschrift)


As some of the first modern-day international (-ised) ad hoc tribunals and hybrid courts have fulfilled their mandates, this dissertation provides a first glance at what they have accomplished, appraises their inheritance and plunges into the vast archives they have produced along the way. Chipping in a discussion on the so-called ‘legacy’ of international criminal tribunals, this dissertation particularly scrutinises the alleged truth-finding, fact ascertainment and history writing functions of the tribunals dealing with mass atrocity in Africa including the archival records they have left behind.
Concretely, it focusses on three interrelated questions: How to understand the invocation of historical narratives in international criminal trials; how to position court judgements in the larger historiography on mass violence; and how to approach the courts’ trials and the trial records as historical sources? This study has sought to answer these questions through an in-depth and systematic examination of the investigation, prosecution and litigation procedures of a selection of mass atrocity trials at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UNICTR), the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). By reviewing a selected number of cases at these subsequent courts, this dissertation offers insights into the judicial understanding, framing and explanations of recent and remote historical injustices as well as consequences of the operationalisation of historical discourses in the trial setting for the historical record at large.
Based on an effort of a critical, dispassionate and detached understanding of transitional justice goals, this study particularly (1) analyses the uses and abuses of historical narratives about mass atrocity violence, (2) scrutinises the process of historical fact ascertainment during mass atrocity trials and (3) questions the historiographical legacy of international criminal trials. In so doing, it problematises the seemingly uncertain ascertainment of facts in non-documentary ‘African’ contexts and when almost exclusively reliant on witness testimony. On that basis, this dissertation critiques (1) the enactment of historical narratives by prosecutors in case theories, (2) the substantiation of these narratives through witness testimony and (3) the limitations of the trial record as historical source.
Originele taal-2Engels
KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
Toekennende instantie
  • Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA)
  • Adler, Nanci, Promotor
  • Romijn, Peter, Promotor
Datum van toekenning20 okt. 2017
StatusGepubliceerd - 20 okt. 2017


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