Back to program

Panel: Reconceptualising Victim Mobilisation, Justice and (non-)Transition in the MENA Region

Bottom-Up Transformative Justice: An Alternative to the Liberal Peace Paradigm in the Question of Palestine

Tamara Tamimi, PhD Student, Queen’s University Belfast

As part of the liberal peace paradigm, Western countries have framed “conflict resolution” in Palestine-Israel through the advancement of the two-state solution, based on a conceptualisation of military occupation. Apart from the failure of this approach and its lack of engagement with the wishes of the Palestinian people, several issues arise from the imposition of a two-state solution from the outside. First, it entrenches the fragmentation of Palestinians. Second, it does not capture Israeli settler colonial measures. Third, it excludes key Palestinian groups and events.

This paper forms part of my broader PhD research and advances the approach of bottom-up transformative justice, operationalised through centralising Palestinian voices at the heart of any political process and peace solutions. In this sense, bottom-up transformative justice would serve as a decolonial alternative to the liberal peace paradigm.

To this end, the paper argues to expand the conceptual framework on Palestine beyond military occupation to include settler colonialism, demonstrating its added value, including but not limited to opening up avenues for decolonial approaches. Thereafter, the paper moves to show how settler colonialism in the case of Palestine demonstrates a ‘state of exception’, which provides for bespoke solutions instead of reproducing the liberal peace paradigm in imposing solutions utilised in other settler colonial contexts. Last, the paper coins bottomup transformative justice by presenting fieldwork findings on perceptions of justice, linking them to local justice mechanisms and their benefits, and feminist approaches of intersectionality and bringing voices ‘from the margin to the centre’.

Victims’ Agency and Relational Autonomy in Transitional Justice: Saturday Mothers’ Experience

Dr. Günes Dasli, lecturer, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics, Freie Universität Berlin

Despite its popular usage, the concept of agency is mainly underdiscussed in transitional justice. Creating avenues for agency opens up possibilities for localizing transitional justice and emancipating it from the bonds of being state-centered and top down. This article seeks to do a theoretical debate of understanding the complexity of the concept of agency supported by the findings collected through in-depth interviews with activists in the Saturday Mothers, the victims’ group in Turkey. To answer this question, it develops a holistic understanding for victims’ practices and perceptions of justice by introducing “relational autonomy” to the field.

The assessment of the functions of participation in the Saturday Mothers by unpacking the forms of agency is summarized as follows: 1) creating a political family based on care, friendship, and solidarity, 2) mitigating isolation; and 3) complex relation with vulnerability and activism. Later, I analyze the ways in which they perform agency and how their imaginations and practices of justice interact. The political family which challenges the conventional notion of family, based on kinship, allows them to demand justice not only for themselves but for all victims regarded as the part of the ‘big family.’ Coping with loneliness opens a space to (re)believe justice and (re)motivate victims to demand justice. The collective experience transforms a helpless ‘why’ into a demanding why by the victims to seek the truth. The agency-centered approach innovatively provides a holistic lens to understand local agency, thus victims’ needs.

Too Ordinary to be Truths? Gender, Social Death, and the Biopolitics of Speech, in the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission

Dr. Sélima Kebaïli, Senior Lecturer, University of Geneva, Institute for Gender Studies

If, as legal scholar Martha Minow wrote, transitional justice aims “to replace violence with words and terror with fairness” (1999), the concern in this presentation is with the conditions necessary for violence to become intelligible in the context of truth commission hearings. The communication builds on four years of ethnography on female victims’ participation in the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC – 2014-218), tasked with investigating the violations committed by the prerevolutionary Tunisian regime. Many women recounted their experiences of testifying in front of the TDC as being traumatic and leading to a feeling of dispossession of their own stories. In this presentation, I make the case that these negative effects are less due to the victims’ difficulty to speak but rather due to the experts’ failure to recognize the forms of suffering expressed as forms of gendered violence. As I show, the transitional justice gender approach, built on a definition of political violence as events targeting the body that bears witness to it, marginalized the narratives of the female victims who focused their testimony on the social death generated by political violence. This communication presents a concrete example of the conflicting effects of the gender-based definition of violence and reveals how the transitional justice definition of violence, because it focuses on events rather than ordinary forms of violence, eludes the structural character of gender-based violence.

Tunisia’s Experience of Transitional Justice

Houcine Bouchiba, Tunisian Human Rights Activist, Founder of the Al-Karama Association, Representative and
former Secretary of the Tunisian Coalition for Transitional Justice

Since the revolution of January 2011, Tunisia embarked on a journey of transitional justice, commencing in April 2012, and continuing to evolve to this day. This process has been characterized by active participation from civil society, marking a significant qualitative addition to transitional justice paradigms. Whilst emphasizing that transitional justice is not a one-size-fits-all solution and defies a standardized “toolbox”, this presentation will analyze Tunisia’s experiences with transitional justice from a comparative perspective, recognizing the richness and depth inherent to Tunisia’s journey – highlighting its benefits, inherent limitations, and the challenges encountered along the way. Key aspects to be discussed include the truth and accountability processes, the establishment of Specialized Criminal Chambers, and the crucial role played by victims. However, amidst the progress made, transitional justice also provokes reservations and criticisms. Questions arise concerning the necessity of political will, the true empowerment of victims, and the adequacy of reparations.