Atrocity's Archives: The Remnants of Transitional Justice in Rwanda

Atrocity's Archives by Julia Viebach is funded by the Leverhulme Early Career Trust Fellowship and the Faculty of Law from 2015 to 2018.

ATROCITY'S ARCHIVES: THE REMNANTS OF TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE IN RWANDA, a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship Project investigates and compares the legal archival documents of the local Rwandan Gacaca Courts with those of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Atrocity's Archives is generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Faculty of Law from 2015 to 2018.

Atrocity's Archives Project Description

This year, Rwanda commemorates the 21th anniversary of the genocide. At the same time, two central transitional justice (tj) mechanisms, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the local Gacaca courts are near to completing or have recently completed their tasks, that is so strive for reconciliation, a “healing” as well as for truth, justice and a “closure”. It is therefore time to reflect on the past and look to the future: What do we know about those legal transitional justice mechanisms? What are possible ways forward?

Current literature on the Rwandan Gacaca courts has either analysed the legal procedure or the way the courts have been experienced by the Rwandan. The ICTR has been analysed through legal approaches and criticised from anthropological perspectives. However, the legal archives of both transitional justice mechanisms have not received any attention at all. This project will respond to this pressing limitation and proposes to interrogate atrocity’ archives as a way forward in research and practice of tj.

Essentially, for the first time, Atrocity’s Archives will research the ICTR and Gacaca archival narratives from a comparative perspective. This research is timely as with the completion of Gacaca and the ICTR close to completing its mandate, we now have the opportunity to interrogate these tj-mechanisms from an archival perspective.

But why is this important? The analysis of the archival narratives is important for three reasons: first, the archival narratives of legal tj-mechanisms establish a legal memory of the atrocities in question. Thus, an analysis of the archives will lead to an in-depth understanding of the legal memory of the genocide, as opposed to what we know about the root causes or individual motivation for the killings. Second, archival narratives establish a memory about the legal mechanism itself. Hence, an investigation into the way the legal mechanism is construed in the archival narratives will allow this research to unravel the mechanisms’ premises of healing, reconciliation and closure. Third, a comparison between the ICTR and the Gacaca archival narratives is important as it will facilitate knowledge on the way different truths and facts are established about the same atrocity in legal memory.

Atrocity’s Archives will show that this difference emerges through divergent modes of legal fact-finding, juridical procedures and by different legal and normative frameworks in which the mechanisms are embedded. Atrocity’s Archives will instigate an increased utilisation of legal archives as means to assess transitional justice processes. In turn, this will generate new perspectives on assumptions made about both international and local legal tj- mechanisms used in other post-conflict societies.