Affective Witnessing in the Courtroom
Bens, Jonas – 2020
On 22 January 2016 I was seated in the visitors’ gallery of courtroom one at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, The Netherlands. 1 On the docket that day was the Confirmation of Charges Hearing against Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan national in his forties and a former high-ranking com- mander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel force from northern Uganda. Ongwen was accused of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during a military conflict with the Ugandan government in the early 2000s. On that day, the prosecution played a short video that had been recorded by Ugandan army investigators shortly after the Lord’s Resistance Army had attacked a camp for internally displaced persons. The video depicted several dead bodies of small children, some of them under three years old. The dead bodies were mutilated and partly burned. Before she showed the gruesome video, the prosecution lawyer described the contents in a dispassionate manner, showing no sign of affection. She added that she had to warn members of the public that the images could be disturbing – still in the same monotonous and disinterested tone of voice, avoiding the display of any expression on her face.