Testifying about 'Uncivilized Events': Problematic Representations of Africa in the Trial Against Charles Taylor

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Abstract

The article presents an anthropological analysis of witness testimony about ritual murder, cannibalism, and secret societies in the trial against Charles Taylor in The Hague. In the first part, a comprehensive in-depth analysis of the testimony of one prosecution witness serves as a case study to illustrate the difficulties of assessing the veracity of witness statements on alleged atrocities linked to African religious and spiritual beliefs. The second part contextualizes the testimony heard in the trial against Charles Taylor by drawing on historical sources and the academic literature on West Africa. The analysis reveals striking parallels between the prosecution narrative and colonial representations of Africa as a mysterious and savage place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)937-959
Number of pages22
JournalLeiden Journal of International Law
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • anthropology of law
  • international criminal law
  • West Africa

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