Truth and Accountability: Dealing with Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity to Prevent Their Recurrence

UPADM-GP.239, 4 points.


Truth commissions - sometimes called “truth and reconciliation commissions” – have emerged as a key instrument in dealing with genocide, human rights abuse, and crimes against humanity in countries as diverse as Liberia, East Timor, Argentina, and South Africa. This course will be an intensive immersion in questions of truth and accountability, providing students with the tools necessary to understand and critically evaluate truth commissions and related efforts as they emerge, for example, in Darfur, Kenya, Colombia, or other post-conflict societies around the world. We will begin with a theoretical introduction to the idea of “truth” as it applies to mass atrocity. What does it mean to seek “truth”? What is its relationship to “justice”? “Memory”? “Accountability”? Students will examine the relationship between truth-seeking and other accountability mechanisms, including prosecutions (from the International Criminal Court to domestic tribunals), memorialization, and reparations, and will explore the intersection between efforts to achieve truth, justice and accountability, and negotiations to ensure sustainable peace. The curriculum will integrate gender-based considerations and be supplemented with case-study presentations of truth-seeking initiatives developed around the world, including both historical examples (South Africa, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Morocco) as well as more current initiatives (e.g. Canada, Colombia, Kenya, the United States, and Nepal). The course format will be include a combination of lectures, film and video, and participatory exercises including a simulation of creating a truth commission.

Prerequisites: none

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