March 24 marks the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims
Courts of law contribute to truth-seeking efforts in the aftermath of mass atrocity by working to establish the circumstances of crimes; the identity of victims; and perhaps most importantly, the responsibility of perpetrators beyond a reasonable doubt through legal due process. Judges ascertain the facts of each case by assessing eyewitness, survivor, and defendant testimonies, forensic and documentary evidence, and other information that could bring to light the truth.
Judgments in cases of mass human rights abuse do not purport to provide a comprehensive historical record of the conflict or repression within which the crimes examined have occurred. Nonetheless, information from judgments issued in international and national courts can provide crucial knowledge about crimes committed around the world, thus contributing to the historical record and helping combat denial and revisionism.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example, the facts established by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and other national courts are helping historians and civil society groups counter rampant denial and revisionist rhetoric about crimes and violations committed in the early 1990s.
Alma Masic, director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, spoke to ICTJ about making use of judicial truth to educate the young about the genocide in Srebrenica.