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The ‘crime of crimes’: genocide, criminal trials and reconciliation

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This article is concerned with the relationship between criminal trials and reconciliation, and more specifically with the relationship between genocide trials and reconciliation. Taking as its starting point Larry May's recent work, Genocide: a normative account, this article specifically seeks to challenge two of May's core claims: that genocide trials aid reconciliation and that genocide is not the ‘crime of crimes’. Focused on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and drawing upon the author's fieldwork in Bosnia-Hercegovina (BiH), this article contends that genocide is the ‘crime of crimes’ and that precisely because of this the linkage between criminal trials and reconciliation is especially tenuous in genocide cases. It seeks to demonstrate this specifically by problematizing May's argument that genocide trials foster reconciliation by dealing with the broader responsibility of bystanders, identifying those individuals with genocidal intent and facilitating closure. Cautioning against an over-reliance upon criminal trials, and emphasizing our responsibility not only to punish but also to prevent genocide, this research advocates a more diverse, multi-layered approach to transitional justice that directly engages and empowers local communities, in accordance with the principles of action research.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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