Insight into suffering: The roles of testimony in exposing child abuse in immigration detention

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Jan Mark


Child abuse, Immigration, Detention, Testimony, Human rights, Immigration detention


Central to the objective of most human rights inquiries is the uncovering of incidents of widespread harm, which may then be interpreted according to human rights principles and disseminated to the public in the form of written reports. In this context, testimonies that are firsthand accounts of the traumatic event not only possess significant evidentiary value, but also an advocative and affective capacity. By examining the testimonial narratives of individuals in immigration detention, as documented in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s report, The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014, this paper argues that testimony in the context of human rights is used as a source of evidence, a tool for advocacy, and an affective device. Through these three roles, testimony legitimises the findings of human rights reports by not only granting them the value of truth, but also by capturing the attention of the public and evoking empathy through expressions of suffering.

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