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On Commemoration

Global Reflections upon Remembering War

Edited By Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro

How, in the twenty-first century, can we do commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, religious leaders, military veterans and scholars debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. They include the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, the award-winning novelists Aminatta Forna and Rachel Seiffert, and the human rights lawyer and Gifford Baillie Prize-winner Philippe Sands. Polemics and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that speaks to our common humanity.

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Reflections on International Justice as a Commemorative Process (Shea Esterling, Michael John-Hopkins and Christopher Harding)


shea esterling, michael john-hopkins and christopher harding

Legal scholars Shea Esterling, Michael John-Hopkins and Christopher Harding explore the strengths and pitfalls of international criminal justice and international human rights mechanisms in producing historico-legal narratives which serve to commemorate abuses and atrocities.

In modern times the international community has attempted to come to terms with legacies of large-scale abuses through international justice, albeit in a rather piecemeal and sporadic fashion. Examples include state accountability under international human rights law and individual accountability through international criminal law processes. Both processes aim to end impunity and to promote reconciliation. In particular, the former seeks to promote individual human rights as a way of enabling effective political democracy, and the latter seeks to facilitate the restoration of the rule of law and peace and security in post-conflict situations. A by-product of these processes is that they bear witness to, and therefore commemorate abuses and atrocities, commemoration being used here in the sense of preserving and validating a collective memory.

We may conceive a broad and slightly indeterminate notion, namely the human right to memory and truth. Arguably, this arises from the invocation of discrete rights within the context of human rights proceedings. For example, firstly, states have the procedural obligation to carry out effective investigations into human rights violations as a way of determining accountability and combating cultures of impunity. Secondly, human rights mechanisms may serve to regulate the state-sanctioned law and politics of memory by either condoning...

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