What about social and economic rights?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about human rights violations? Chances are that you are thinking about issues like torture, political detention, disappearance or extrajudicial killings – in other words, violations of civil and political rights. This set of rights continues to enjoy a privileged status in a lot of the human rights scholarship and practice.

Unsurprisingly, violations of these rights have also been the focus of most transitional justice interventions. In the past decade, however, we’ve witnessed more attention for violations of economic, social and cultural rights: when combatants poison a drinking well, burn crops or loot health infrastructure, these are acts that constitute violations of economic, social and cultural rights – and they can be prosecuted.

Moreover, violations of economic, social and cultural rights are often related to violations of civil and political rights, as well as to larger issues of social and economic injustice – but how exactly?

In recent years, a lot of excellent scholarship and practice started to provide answers to this question.

In this episode, we talk to three experts on this topic:

Evelyne Schmid from the University of Lausanne is a leading expert on social, economic and cultural rights and international criminal justice.

Simon Robins is a humanitarian practitioner and senior research fellow at the University of York working on social-economic justice.

Zinaida Miller is Assistant Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University

Together with them, we explore what room there is within the existing legal framework of transitional justice, as well as beyond it, to pay more attention to social and economic rights and needs. How can and should transitional justice engage with these issues? What are the pitfalls? And what if victims were the ones to shape the transitional justice agenda: would they prioritize truth and justice, or rather their social and economic needs? And is there really such a strong dichotomy?

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