Friday, 23 May 2014

The Trial Record as a Historical Source

The Trial Record as a Historical Source
NIOD Transitional Justice Research Program Workshop
In cooperation with National Archives of the Netherlands

June 19, 2014 10:00 – 18:00
National Archives of the Netherlands, Prins Willem Alexanderhof 20 in The Hague

The venue of the courtroom has shown us that different actors can maintain diverse – even conflicting – versions of the same events.  In consequence, the testimonies produced by victims, perpetrators, expert witnesses, and eye-witnesses can have widely varied evidence value.  The connections between testimony, history, and the law have always been close but what would be considered evidence by a historian, would not necessarily be considered such by a judge, and vice-versa. Courts seek testimony, but they do not want life stories.  Nor are they mandated to specifically address other matters that might influence testimony, such as despair or imagination. 

It can be argued that judges write history to the extent that they record a certain narrative of how and why events transpired.  But what kind of history is being written?  For example, ICTY judgments have contributed to the pursuit of historical accuracy regarding the causes of the conflict, yet contending parties often enter and leave the courtroom with their own “truths” still intact.  Hence, the trial model is not necessarily successful in reconciling competing narratives of the same events.  However, tribunals facilitate access to testimonies that might have otherwise been inaccessible; that alone makes the record they create an indispensable source for historians – a source that, like all others, must be subjected to critical scrutiny.

The NIOD Transitional Justice Research Program, Understanding the Age of Transitional Justice: Narratives in Historical Perspective, now in its fourth year, has employed the portal of the personal, legal, and political narrative to come to a better understanding of transitional justice mechanisms.  As the ICTY and ICTR wind down, the verdicts, acquittals, and jurisdiction they leave in their wake will further the discussion among legal scholars and practitioners -- discussion that will be beneficial to the development of the ICC.  These tribunals also leave voluminous testimony that will help historians interpret the mechanisms and aftermath of genocide and mass political violence. 

In consideration of the under-researched, multi-layered content of the court record that has emerged, we would like to bring together historians and experts working at international tribunals in order to generate reflection on the important questions the trial record raises. The topic is all the more timely because we hope such discussion can contribute to thinking about the future (uses) of the archives of these war crimes tribunals.

10:00 Welcome: Martin Berendse (National Archives of the Netherlands)
10:05 Introduction: Nanci Adler (NIOD)

[chair: Peter Romijn, NIOD]
10:15 William Schabas (Middlesex University)
Contested Histories and International Tribunals: From Katyn to Operation Storm
10:35 Herman von Hebel (ICC)
The Importance of Records of International Courts and Tribunals
10:55 Vladimir Petrovic (Institute of History Belgrade, NIOD)
Historical Forensic Contribution: Possibilities and Limitations
11:15 discussion

11:35 – 11:45 coffee

[chair: Nanci Adler]
11:45 Selma Leydesdorff (University of Amsterdam)
The Victim and the Sobibor Trials: Kiev (1962/3, Hagen (1965/66), Munich/Demjanjuk (2009/2011)
12:05 Predrag Dojcinovic (OTP, ICTY)
Reflections on the Concept of Guilty Mind as Historical Evidence in International Criminal Proceedings
12:25 discussion

13:00 – 14:00 lunch break (lunch not included)

[chair: Eric Ketelaar, University of Amsterdam]
14:00 Thijs Bouwknegt (NIOD)
The Trial as Historical Source
14:20 Nerma Jelacic (MICT/ICTY)
Making Archives Count: Judicial Records as a Source of Societal Memory
14:40 Maartje van de Kamp (National Archives of the Netherlands) and Helen Grevers (teacher at Utrecht University)
Het Centraal Archief Bijzondere Rechtspleging.
How centralisation of trial records created a historical source

15:00 – 15:30 coffee

15:30 Reflections: Eric Ketelaar
15:50 – 17:00 Round Table (moderator: Eric Ketelaar)
17:00 reception

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