Accounting for Violence
: The Production, Power and Ownership of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s Archive

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s (ICTR) archive, based in Arusha, Tanzania, contains over 4,000 linear metres of documents. It offers a window into the 1994 Rwandan genocide, captured by the testimony of the 3,200 witnesses that took part in the ICTR’s trials, and further represents the institutional memory of the Tribunal. Over time, the archive became both a significant aspect of the Tribunal’s legacy and a site of controversy as the ICTR’s main stakeholders disagreed over who owned the archive, where it should be located and what function it should serve. Consequently, the dissertation assesses how and why the archive exists as it does, and what this can tell us about the main question posed here: whose archive?
The dissertation argues that the archive was produced as it was because of the ‘conditions’, ‘processes’ and ‘politics’ of truth operating within the Tribunal. Whilst the witnesses (largely those that had endured the genocide), played a significant role in the creation of the Tribunal’s records, the systematic way in which their interests were subsumed by the needs of the other stakeholders demonstrates that the Tribunal and its archive were not created, nor did they function, with the interests of those who had suffered during the genocide in mind. Rather it was the Tribunal’s legal actors, along with political actors at both the United Nations Security Council and within the Rwandan government, who benefited from the way in which the archive was created. This was reflected in the very form of the archive, and demonstrates the inseparable nature of law and politics, and further questions the legitimacy of international criminal justice as it currently exists. This dissertation also presents a re–evaluation of the role of the witness in this process, showing that whilst they played a far more significant role in the trials than is normally considered, they were also pushed to the periphery of the Tribunal’s interests (and more so over time). Finally, understanding why and how it was that the archive came to be as it is, and why it was that particular stories about past acts of violence were told during the ICTR’s trials, allows for an appreciation of the potential value of these records, and hence the role that they might play, in the future.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJames Gow (Supervisor) & Rachel Kerr (Supervisor)

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