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Panel: The Distributional Outcomes Crafted by Transitional Architecture: Victim-Centered Spaces in Colombia’s Transitional Processes, Debates and Institutions

Transitional Justice and Racialized Victims’ Participation: Understanding the Interaction between Ancestral Authorities of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Communities and Transitional Judicial Authorities in Colombia

Yuri Alexander Romaña-Rivas, Lawyer and PhD Candidate at McGill University, Faculty of Law

The 2016 Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and the former Guerilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – The People’s Army (FARC-EP) triggered a contemporary transitional justice (TJ) process in Colombia. This TJ process promised to put victims’ rights at the center of its goals. This has been particularly important to victims of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities (racialized communities), disproportionately impacted by the Colombian armed conflict. Based on the intersectional and pluralistic approach to its implementation, this TJ process has invited innovative participation and interaction between these communities and transitional judicial authorities. Indeed, the current TJ process has fostered an environment for an extraordinarily and atypically fruitful encounter between Justices of Colombia’s current transitional tribunal (the Special Jurisdiction for Peace) and traditional authorities of Black and Indigenous communities. The purpose is to coordinate actions to implement the Peace Agreement’s provisions on justice for traditionally marginalized victims. Reflecting upon this unusual interaction, this presentation seeks to underscore how, albeit facing challenges, the creation of institutional spaces for participation of racialized communities can be done through transitional justice. Centering traditional and ancestral institutions as vehicles for participation challenges goes beyond the traditional participatory approach that encourages victims to individually go in front of truth institutions to share their stories. The presentation will examine how this particular form of inclusion through participation empowers racialized victims and communities to shape the ways in which TJ considers their justice agendas.

The Complementarity Paradigm: Tracing the Transitional Justice Blueprint in the Inter-American System of Human Rights

Anamaría Muñoz Rincón, PhD Candidate, Sciences Po, École de Droit

The promotion of ‘home-grown’ approaches to transitional justice is a powerful trope animating the field, encouraging local ownership of transitional justice processes, and refusing ‘one size fits all’ formulas. I challenge this account by exploring how the obligations resulting from anti-impunity’s advent yield only one particular institutional design that seems compatible with obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights. In this presentation, I develop this argument by exploring how the right to truth is enforced, showing that the interaction between regional obligations and truth as a right yields a specific transitional institutional blueprint. Drawing on the case of Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, I pay close attention to how this particular institutional design deals with victim’s demands -foreclosing some spaces of participation and encouraging others- reflecting upon the myriad ways in which institutional infrastructures in transitions distribute shame, pride and access to justice.

Childhood Exposure to Wartime Practices: Shifting Perspectives on Criminal Responsibility and Complex Political Victims

Laura Acosta Zarate, PhD student, University of Toronto

This presentation reflects upon the powerful impact that exposure to wartime practices during childhood has on the understanding of a person’s subsequent forms of criminal behavior and wrongdoing. The perspective on the criminal responsibility of former combatants recruited during their childhood to participate in hostilities has undergone a recent shift. These individuals now serve as paradigmatic examples of complex political victims, representing individuals who simultaneously bear the roles of victims and perpetrators. Drawing on legal and criminological insights and reflecting upon the Colombian transitional process, the presentation examines how this intricate group of individuals interact with participatory spaces designed for victims traditionally understood as ‘pure.’ The presentation explores how understandings and meanings of wrongdoing are formed, contested, and negotiated in participatory spaces where complex political victims -such as former child combatants- are present, by engaging with particular cases of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. Particularly, the presentation considers the interaction between participatory spaces and risk factors encountered during distinct developmental phases in shaping an individual’s understanding of wrongdoing.

Victims of the Conflict, Conflicts over the Victims: Building Narratives and Opportunities of Participation Shaping the Definition of ‘Victims’

Juan Rivera, SJD candidate at Harvard Law School

The guarantee of victim’s rights is one of the most powerful rationales of transitional justice. However, reasons of various kinds explain why this seemingly universal and all-encompassing mandate ends up being limited to a certain extent. Defining the notion of victim determines who will be granted the right to participate in and benefit from transitional justice mechanisms. This presentation illustrates three main debates around the notion of “victim” in Colombia by analyzing the 2011 Colombian Bill of Victims: a crucial law informing the operation of current transitional justice institutions. First, the discussion on whether the victims of harm committed by the Armed Forces (in contrast to those of illegal groups) should be recognized by the Bill. Second, a debate on whether members of illegal armed groups could be recognized as victims when suffering human rights violations themselves. Third, the debates mobilized by women’s rights movements advancing the notion that conflict has a differentiated, heightened impact on women. The first debate asked whether the State could acknowledge its own wrongdoings; the second, whether wrongdoers could suffer wrongdoing; and the third, whether groups nonaligned with conflict could be the ones who suffered the most. They are all questions about how to understand the Colombian conflict, as well as about who can access post-conflict assistance: an important decision channelled through spaces of participation where organized groups of victims advocate to advance their justice claims.