Source: (2009) Research Brief. June. New York: Center for Transitional Justice.

Trials re-enact periods of violence and state repression in order to submit them to authoritative judgment. The legal judgment is, however, only one aspect of such trials, which have broader educational and transformative goals. The question posed in this paper is whether or not trials for systematic or massive abuse have effects for the politicized identities that were at the heart of the violence, and that may still be operative in the post-repression period. In domestic trials, the main audience is composed of the country’s residents. This audience is asked to follow the trial that unmasks the country’s recent history, and to identify with some characters, stories and norms over others. Two main problems emerge: 1)How do the “roles” and “scripts” available to trial participants—judges, prosecutors and defendants as well as survivor-witnesses—enable and constrain them in talking about the identities that were interwoven with state repression?; and 2) Which dynamics of identification occur between the audience and different participants in the trial? Is the audience drawn into reflecting on its own complicity in the violence and its prior relationships to trial participants? (excerpt)