On judging: Managing emotions in trials of crimes against humanity in Argentina
Leticia Barrera (CONICET)
Paper short abstract:
For over a decade, trials of crimes against humanity, committed during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) in Argentina have been carried out. Based on interviews with federal court judges, the paper examines the effects these trials have had on the judges inside and outside the courtrooms.
Paper long abstract:
How do judges, who sit for months listening to the suffering of survivors of the last military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983), mange the emotional toll this process implies? How does the extended exposure to testimonies about horrendous crimes affect their ability to judge or their capacity to hear/listen? These questions led us to conduct extensive interviews with federal court trial judges in the cities of Buenos Aires and La Plata where trials of crimes against humanity have been ongoing for over a decade. Many of the works examining the role of emotions in courtrooms focus on the dramas and performances of the judicial process (e.g., Dahlberg 2009). Our work, on the other hand, draws mostly on interviews with judges in their chambers, cafes or even in their own homes. Here, we discussed the long-term emotional impact that the oral trials have had on their private lives; the various methods they use to come to terms with the suffering they hear, see, read about or are otherwise exposed to throughout the process; and we considered with them the possible impact these trials have had on the process of judgment. Judges spoke of the lingering affects of the testimonies, the illnesses and their emotional (and physical) crises following particularly difficult periods in the oral trial. They also spoke of their changing view of humanity and their new understanding about their role as judges in a post-transitional justice context (Collins 2010).
The anthropology of emotions and law [LAW NET]