IRRC No. 890

Book review: The terror courts: rough justice at Guantanamo Bay

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Transitional justice literature tends to focus discussions of accountability on the actions of states and international organisations. Typically examined are institutional mechanisms, such as truth commissions and claims commissions, international and internationalised criminal tribunals, and whatever civil or criminal remedies may be available in national courts. On occasion, mechanisms of a less legalistic nature, like monuments, are discussed; even these, however, are often the result of official action. The extent to which popular culture can promote accountability is rarely explored. This is an unfortunate omission. Particularly in the absence of official moves toward accountability for wrongdoing, cultural production –  films, plays, paintings, works of fiction and nonfiction  –  can make essential contributions to the public record. A prime nonfiction example is The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay, Jess Bravin's gripping and comprehensive book about the trials endured by participants in US military commissionssetupinthewakeoftheterroristattacksof11September2001,attacks frequently discussed under the shorthand term '9/11'.

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