"Transitional History: Accounts of Atrocity and Accountability in Africa"
Abstract: Historian Thijs Bouwknegt critically engages with the historical phenomenon of transitional justice, and argues that “transitional history” – reframing the past and historical narratives in service of the present and the future – is a more usable term to understand the political and societal processes of dealing with the past. His forthcoming book gauges the modern history of mass atrocity violence (starting at the Berlin Conference of 1884/5), and consequently traces the evolution of transitional justice (starting in 1890 regarding the Congo Free State) in Africa. It concludes with three empirical case-studies (on atrocity crime trials at the ICTR, SCSL, and the ICC), which show that historical truth-finding through transitional testimony and history-writing through adversarial proceedings was problematic, and its results mediocre. Tribunals, he argues, should deal more responsibly with history.
Thijs Bouwknegt is Senior Researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust & Genocide Studies. Since 2002, he has attended, monitored and reported on the atrocity crime trials of over 160 defendants at international criminal tribunals, the International Criminal Court, and a range of national jurisdictions in Africa and Europe