Enter Ghost: Haunted Courts and Haunting Judgments in Transitional Justice

Law & Critique, Vol. 21, pp. 73-92, 2010

20 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2010

See all articles by Christiane Wilke

Christiane Wilke

Carleton University - Department of Law and Legal Studies

Date Written: January 21, 2010

Abstract

How can we account for trials in which the judgment speaks not only to and about the defendants and their deeds, but also about injustices from a more distant past? Building on approaches to ghosts and haunting by Jacques Derrida and Avery Gordon, I propose to examine a set of the German post-1990 trials for human rights violations committed in the former East Germany as instances of haunted justice. Here, the courts not only adjudicated the present cases, but also tried to ‘go back and make whole what has been smashed’ (Benjamin 1969) by their own lack of judgment in the failed trials of the Nazi perpetrators. In this instance, the ‘time is out of joint’, and we see the ghosts of the failed trials of Nazi perpetrators standing next to the inheritance of impunity fostered in West German courts, and next to the now present East German perpetrators. What can justice mean in such a complex constellation of injustices? I argue that the ghostly dimension of these cases point to a need for a kind of justice and engagement that can ultimately not be found in courts - yet the courts’ engagement with this ghostly matter is nevertheless important.

Keywords: Haunting, Memory, Ghosts, Time, Transitional Justice, Trials

Suggested Citation

Wilke, Christiane, Enter Ghost: Haunted Courts and Haunting Judgments in Transitional Justice (January 21, 2010). Law & Critique, Vol. 21, pp. 73-92, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1663020

Christiane Wilke (Contact Author)

Carleton University - Department of Law and Legal Studies ( email )

Department of Law, C 473 Loeb
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www2.carleton.ca/law/about/wilke.php

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
99
Abstract Views
797
rank
273,196
PlumX Metrics