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The Transformation of Human Rights Fact-Finding$
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Philip Alston and Sarah Knuckey

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190239480

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190239480.001.0001

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The Complex Truth of Testimony

The Complex Truth of Testimony

A Case Study of Human Rights Fact-Finding in Iraq

Chapter:
(p.191) 10. The Complex Truth of Testimony
Source:
The Transformation of Human Rights Fact-Finding
Author(s):

Daniel Rothenberg

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190239480.003.0010

This chapter considers the specific challenges posed by reliance on testimony in human rights fact-finding. An inquiry into and embrace of the complex nature of the truth of testimony is required. First, the chapter defines testimony, highlighting its importance for documenting atrocities and situating it within the evolution of human rights fact-finding. It then presents a case study of testimony from a woman describing her father’s forced disappearance and subsequent abuses in Iraq in the early 1990s. Second, it suggests that to understand the complexity of the role of testimony it is necessary to recognize a basic tension involved in using the voices of victims and others. Third, the chapter engages the challenge of factual accuracy as a core component of testimony’s value as both evidentiary truth and experiential truth. This chapter also considers the vagaries of memory, impact of trauma, influence of intentionality and coherence of life stories.

Keywords:   witness testimony, Iraq, truth’s complex nature, documenting atrocities, vagaries of memory, impact of trauma, intentionality, coherence

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