September 21, 2023
Institutional innovation and victim participation in transitional justice
The new season of the Justice Visions podcast focuses on the issue of victim participation, mobilization and resistance. This dedicated focus aligns with the overarching theme of the Justice Visions conference, taking place in March 2024. Our first episode centers on institutional innovation and its symbiotic relationship with victim participation. This is a dynamic interplay where, on one hand, formal transitional justice mechanisms shape various transitional justice processes with significant implications for victims. On the other, formal mechanisms increasingly engage with victim participation, which is seen as an essential requirement for achieving the goals of transitional justice.
We talk about this interplay between formal and informal avenues and the topic of institutional change with Dr. Brianne McGonigle Leyh, who is affiliated with the Netherlands Institute of Human and Utrecht’s University’s School of Law. Brianne has been working extensively on international criminal law, transitional justice and victims’ rights. Recently, her work zooms in on aparadigmatic cases, examining transitional justice initiatives in the United States. In Brianne’s words, “there are new ways of using the language of transitional justice, using the language of human rights to advance a cause that meets the needs and concerns of community actors and community members. So, when we see even traditional processes being used to advance justice for historical harms, I think that’s brilliant.”
Reflecting on her extensive research journey, Brianne talks about the evolution of participatory rights across the pillars of transitional justice. She emphasizes: “I definitely think we’ve seen major changes in the past 20, 15, even 10 and 5 years. Participation has become so integral, not just in transitional justice. Actually, even in the broader field of human rights law, participation has become absolutely integral. There’s an expression, I believe it was first used in disability rights: “Nothing about us without us”. And we’ve seen that phrase really spread to so many different groups and communities that have long fought for these participatory rights.” This “participatory turn” has left an indelible mark on institutional structures and processes established during times of transition.
Dr. Brianne McGonigle Leyh is an Associate Professor with the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights and Montaigne Centre on Rule of Law and Administration of Justice at Utrecht University’s School of Law. Her specializations include human rights law, international criminal law, transitional justice, victims’ rights, and documentation and accountability for serious human rights violations.
June 30, 2023
Re-imagining victimhood and victim participation in transitional justice
In this special episode of the Justice Visions podcast we go back to the core of the Justice Visions research project and explore important evolutions in how we think about the complex notions of victimhood and victim participation within the field of transitional justice.
Together with Cheryl Lawther and Tine Destrooper, we talk how the recent expansion of transitional justice, the diverse range of contexts in which it is implemented, and the growing attention to diverse knowledge approaches, shaped our understanding of these complex concepts in different contexts.
The notion of victimhood itself is central to Cheryl’s forthcoming book ‘Beyond Innocence and Guilt: Constructing Victimhood in Transitional Justice’. In this episode, she argues that when we’re thinking about victimhood in transitional justice we need to engage with a much bigger range of thematic issues:
How is victimhood constructed in relation to, for example, what voices do we hear, and what voices do we not hear? What happens when we perhaps freeze victims and survivors in one particular narrative and treat that one experience in their life as their total identity, their total voice? (…) and what about what about the forms of victimhood that we don’t see, or we don’t hear?
This position also has implication for how we think about victim participation in formal and informal spaces of transitional justice, which is the focus of Tine Destrooper’s work. As she explains in this episode, victim participation in transitional justice can be both a locus and a driver of transformative change, if it is developed in ways that are meaningful for those who experienced harm:
Meaningful participation foregrounds lived experiences and can be a way to facilitate reflexive understandings of rights that underpin various agendas for justice or redress.
How to organize participation in a meaningful way, however, requires a better understanding of how people who experienced violence navigate and negotiate or reshape or reject participation in transitional justice, how formal spaces shape informal spaces and vice versa, etc. As Tine argues in the podcast, ‘There are a lot of relational dynamics related to participation that we need to understand better’.
These questions will also be discussed in more detail during the international ERC conference Victims and Transitional Justice: Participation. Mobilisation. Resistance, organised by Justice Visions in Ghent in March 2024.
June 12, 2023
The revolutionary potential of transitional justice: Transitional justice, arts and protest in South Sudan
The final episode of the Justice Visions miniseries on the revolutionary potential of transitional justice zooms in on the relationship between protest, artistic practices and transitional justice in South Sudan. This might seem not be the most obvious choice for such a miniseries, as transitional justice is a relatively new concept in the world’s youngest nation, which has endured decades of violence.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011, following more than 20 years of civil war, and subsequently experienced another civil war from 2013 to 2020. In response to the legacies of these conflicts, both formal and informal transitional justice initiatives have been established. While the peace agreements put forward four transitional justice measures, none of these foreseen measures became operational. In the absence of functioning formal transitional justice mechanisms, the artistic realm has emerged as an incubator for contestation and resistance.
We are exploring the way in which artistic practices further both TJ and protest with Sayra van den Berg. Sayra has recently conducted fieldwork in South Sudan, focusing on contemporary artistic and cultural expressions, notably in the domain of visual arts and music. She describes how several artists share goals with the transitional justice advocacy community, even if they do not self-identify as TJ actors, arguing that,
While I don’t necessarily think that there is an intrinsic benefit in adopting the language of transitional justice for these artistic spaces, I do think that there’s a very real relational benefit to being a part of this wider transitional justice community that using that language grants access to.
Delving into the vibrant artistic landscape, she describes arts’ potential for innovation in TJ spaces and discussions. Scholars and practitioners can act upon this:
The increasingly critical turn in scholarship around formal mechanisms of transitional justice is a call to action for all of us in this incredibly fluid and evolving field of research, to locate the practice of transitional justice in the spaces where its goals are centralized and not merely within a rather static and narrow set of formal mechanisms.
May 30, 2023
Transitional Justice and Reparations for Slavery and its Ongoing Legacy in the United States
The new episode of the Justice Visions podcast is the third episode of a mini-series that looks into the revolutionary potential of transitional justice in current protests, when social movements movement use it in non-scripted innovative ways. In this episode we examine how US-based activists demanding reparations for slavery and its ongoing legacy, tap into the disruptive potential of transitional justice language and initiatives.
Together with our studio guest, professor Joyce Hope Scott, we reflect on the nature of the current reparations debate in the US, unearthing its long history and global reach, as well as activists reasons for sometimes relying on the rhetoric of transitional justice.
Through a focus on the work of INOSAAR we unpack some of the most pressing public misconceptions about reparations and reparative justice, as well as about the very history of enslavement. As professor Scott argues,
We see an inseparable connection between the African continent: those who stayed and those who left. […] Because what we are, is epistemological orphans. So there’s a whole effort of research and of reconnection that we do at the level of Indigenous knowledge to broaden the struggle and make it more effective. So the conversation gets much bigger, much more global. And the implication behind this idea of transitional justice is that this is not going to happen again, that there will be healing.
As such the episode does not only examine what transitional justice can mean for the current struggle for reparations, but also what the innovations, reconceptualizations and new approaches developed as part of this struggle may mean for more mainstream transitional justice.
Professor Joyce Hope Scott is a clinical professor of African-American and black diaspora studies at Boston University. She’s also a co-founder of the International Network of Scholars and Activists for Afrikan Reparations (INOSAAR), is an international network dedicated to reparations and to other forms of transitional justice for the enslavement and the genocide of peoples of African descent. She is the author of numerous publications including: “Reparations, Restitution, Transitional Justice” in the Journal Of World-Systems Research.
May 12, 2023
Transitional Justice and Protest in Peru
The new episode of the Justice Visions podcast is a second episode of a miniseries that looks into the revolutionary potential of transitional justice in current protest. In this episode we examine the wave of recent protests and severe state violence in Peru. We link the aftermath of leftist ex-President Pedro Castillo’s failed coup d’état on December 7th 2022 and people’s demands to Peru’s former transitional justice process. This was a response to the country’s violent internal conflict between the 1980s and 2000s and concluded in 2003.
Together with our two studio guests, Sarah Kerremans and Rocio Silva Santisteban, we unearth a continuum of violence that helps to understand why this is happening today, why indigenous and rural communities find themselves at the centre of the conflict and how this links to Peru’s extractivist economic model and the country’s many ongoing ecoterritorial conflicts.
During her recent field work in Peru, Sarah witnessed the vitriolic attacks by institutions and mainstream media against indigenous groups: ‘What struck me most was the racist dimension of that endlessly repeated message that they wanted to take over Lima and the attempts to silence critical voices.’ Protesters in Peru have been coined as terrorists to delegitimize them and their demands during the current protests, as well as in many conflicts regarding extractivist projects.
Rocío Silva-Santisteban narrates how the current situation is unprecedented: “It is a situation that in some way or another shows that there is a great political malaise, a great malaise of the sectors that never before in the country had been represented by one of their own.” She points to the failed transitional justice process: “These are the same demands for justice, for truth, for memory, for reparation that were not fulfilled 20 years ago.” However, she stills feels inspired by all these people organizing, “despite the difficulties, despite the harshness of the situation, despite the impunity, despite the fact that the state doesn’t care, they take the streets, they mobilize, they make themselves being heard.”
Rocío Silva-Santisteban Manrique is a Peruvian feminist, activist, a poet, a university professor and a human rights consultant. She has been the leading woman of the Peruvian National Coordinator of Human Rights (2011-2015) and has served as a Congresswoman (2020-2021). She has published several (non)academic books, such as ¿Cómo volver a vivir tranquilos?Biopolítica extractivista y posestallido en conflictos ecoterritoriales with José de Echave and Raphael Hoetmer.
Sarah Kerremans is a Belgian-Peruvian Justice Visions researcher working on human rights accountability and duty bearers, who has lived for more than a decade in Peru.
Voice-over: Gretel Alexandra Mejía