turner-judicializinghistory-2018.pdf (506.42 kB)
Judicializing history: Mass crimes trials and the historian as expert witness in West Germany, Cambodia, and Bangladesh
journal contributionposted on 2018-12-01, 00:00 authored by Rebecca Gidley, Mathew TurnerMathew Turner
Henry Rousso warned that the engagement of historians as expert witnesses in trials, particularly highly politicized proceedings of mass crimes, risks a judicialization of history. This article tests Rousso’s argument through analysis of three quite different case studies: the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial; the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; and the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh. It argues that Rousso’s objections misrepresent the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, while failing to account for the engagement of historical expertise in mass atrocity trials beyond Europe. Paradoxically, Rousso’s criticisms are less suited to the European context that represents his purview, and apply more readily to the highly-politicized crimes tribunals outside the continent. Finally, it contends that the importance of the proceedings themselves should be measured in full against the hypothetically corrupting effects of historians’ engagement as experts in court.