A new Justice Visions miniseries on historical truth-seeking initiatives in the (post-)colonial state, will look into formal and informal truth initiatives in European countries dealing with settler and overseas colonial legacies. In this miniseries co-hosted by Dr. Cira Pallí-Asperó, we pick up on some of these debates to explore how different actors are engaging in truth-seeking initiatives and what this means for the domain of transitional justice.
In this episode, we talk with Dr. Malin Arvidsson, a commissioner at the Swedish Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Tornedalians, Kvens and Lantalaiset, about a number of state-sanctioned historical truth-seeking initiatives that have taken place in the Scandinavian context. The goal of these commissions was to examine the impact that assimilation policies of the Scandinavian welfare states had on indigenous peoples in those countries.
The colonial past is a corrosive component in the relations between the former colonizing powers and their colonial subjects, particularly over issues of historical responsibility of recognition and redress of colonial injustices. Although the demands to redress historical injustices linked to colonialism are not new; since the Black Lives Matters movement took over the streets in 2020, they have taken a renewed spotlight in the public and political debate.
Within this framework, the transitional justice paradigm is increasingly being used to think about historical injustices, as historical truth-seeking initiatives within the post-colonial context (both formal and informal) are increasingly using the logic and rhetoric of transitional justice; for instance, by systematically referring to its core objectives in their mandates (i.e., truth, accountability, reparation, non-recurrence). But how are these transferred to the post-colonial context? and what are the implications thereof?
As Malin points out, this raises key questions: “(…) if you talk about historical injustices in this long-time perspective, what are even the actors that we are looking at, because for example, the state and the Church of Sweden has an intertwined history.” Awaiting the results of this ongoing process, one of the main contributions foreseen is building a strong archive that is essential for follow up by policy makers, civil society: “what will remain is an archive of interviews, research reports (…) that have been commissioned by the commission that can serve as a basis for further advocacy and claims-making.”