Witness to Rape: The Limits and Potential of International War Crimes Trials for Victims of Wartime Sexual Violence

  • Henry N
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Abstract

Despite the proliferation of trauma and memory research in recent years, we know very little about the contribution of transitional justice mechanisms to psychological healing and societal reconciliation in the aftermath of genocide, armed conflict and politicized vi- olence.Many scholars in this area have argued that the disclosure of traumatic experiences is beneficial to the psychological recovery process for survivors of gross human rights vi- olations. This article critically examines this therapeutic assumption within a transitional justice paradigm. The article explores the potentials and limitations of international war crimes trials for victims of wartime sexual violence, focusing specifically on the Interna- tional Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The article provides a theoreti- cal framework for analyzing the significance of testimony at internationalwar crimes trials and raises some critical questions related to the psychological impact of trials. It is argued that due to the sheer diversity and heterogeneity of wartime rape victims, the experience of giving testimony is likely to be mixed: while some victims may suffer under the con- straints of legal process, under the right circumstances, war crimes trialsmay help others to make sense of their suffering.

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  • N. Henry

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