Of Justice and the Grave: The Role of the Dead in Post-conflict Uganda | J Kim, TR Hepner | International Criminal Law Review

In the aftermath of war, survivors’ definitions of justice are often in tension with those of governments and international actors. While post-war northern Uganda has been the site of high-profile prosecutions of Lord’s Resistance Army rebels, our research in rural Acholiland highlights how survivors define justice largely in terms of material compensation for both the living and the dead. These priorities are linked to the omnipresence of improperly buried human remains as evidence of physical and structural violence. Mass graves, burials in former displacement camps, and unidentified remains become focal points around which survivors articulate ongoing socioeconomic suffering and demands for redress. A ‘thanatological approach’ that centres the role of the dead and critically explores the possibilities presented by forensic science in a transitional justice context reveals survivors’ prioritisation of reparative and restorative justice despite the international and national focus on retributive justice through institutions like the icc.

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