Attending the war crimes court invoked a mixed emotional response; on one hand, it was encouraging that some of the perpetrators of the genocide have received sentences for their crimes, it is also angering that not all who participated are tried for their participation in the genocide. Also, it is immensely difficult for survivors to testify as witnesses to the crimes of genocide.
While we were at the war crimes court, we received an overview of the court process and developed an understanding of what a trial for a genocide-related crime looked like. While many things were similar to court systems in the United States.
The presentation also described how witnessed are treated in the court, and what preparations are essistenal to their wellbeing and safety. Most witnesses are annoynomas and protected.
Our presenter showed us videos of a few people testifying to the crimes of genoicde, and it was incredibly difficult for them. The women who presented stated that she had to call the ambulance on multiple occasions, and mentioned that the stress of testifying had caused one person to go into cardiac arrest. I believe this serves as a testament to how traumatizing the process of testifying against genocide perpetrators is.
We were made aware of the steps that are used to try to protect witnesses; including having a victims advocates. Victims advocates serve by preparing the victims to testify and advocating for their needs while in court. As a social worker, I took particular notice of the role of a victim advocate, and I personally believe that this role is essistenal to war crime trials.
Attending the war crimes court and watching the videos of the witnesses who testified solidified how absolutely terrifying it is for survivors of genocide, and how difficult it is to come forward as witnesses and testify against those who perpetrated the genoicde.