Article

Trauma and Vengeance: Assessing the Psychological and Emotional Effects of Post-Conflict Justice

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Abstract

Do war crimes tribunals or truth commissions satisfy victims of war and atrocity and provide psychological relief from war-induced trauma? Do they make victims less vengeful and less likely to engage in or support violent retribution? Or does the experience of post-conflict justice simply reinforce and exacerbate emotional and psychological suffering? Answers to these questions are central to the logic of truth-telling’s peace-promoting effects in post-authoritarian and post-war societies. Indeed, one of transitional justice’s core arguments is that victims of wartime abuse demand truth and justice. These arguments, however, assume that truth-telling processes, on average, provide psychological and emotional benefits to victims. Some critics have argued, however, that they actually cause more harm than good. Although victims’ preferences for truth and justice are well documented, we know considerably less about their actual impact. This article assesses that impact by surveying the extant empirical evidence from prominent cases of transitional justice, as well as research in forensic and clinical psychology. It finds a paltry empirical record that offers little support for claims of either salutary or harmful effects of post-conflict justice. Although there is little evidence that truth-telling in general dramatically harms individuals, the notion that formal truth-telling processes satisfy victims’ need for justice, ease their emotional and psychological suffering, and dampen their desire for vengeance, remains highly dubious.

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... The implementation of transitional justice mechanisms have sparked a lively debate among some psychiatrists, lawyers, anthropologists, and international and local NGOs on how traumatic experiences shape the ability of individuals and groups to respond to transitional justice initiatives (35,56). Yet, there are only a few empirical studies that have investigated the link between transitional justice and mental health (22,(57)(58)(59). ...
... Yet, some of these studies challenge the claim that truthtelling has a healing effect for individuals, although it plays a pivotal role in post-conflict reconciliation processes around the world (6,57,59). For this reason, we assume that a difference between individual psychological healing and societal healing must be made when elaborating the outcome of such efforts. ...
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In the aftermath of crimes against humanity, human rights violations, and genocide, the question arises whether and how justice can be restored. A lack of social justice and continuing injustice in post-conflict areas prevent survivors from processing their traumatic experiences. As a consequence, the individuals and often their families, their community, and the whole society are changed in a lasting way. The trauma can even be passed on over generations. Yet, if war has a negative impact on health, then, programs that focus on achieving justice, peace, and stability should be able to offset or reduce this negative impact. For this reason, the importance of psychosocial well-being and mental health for the reconstruction of societies is acknowledged. Various political, legal, and social programs, like transitional justice, are being implemented in post-war regions to develop justice. Developing or restoring justice also requires good psychosocial care, like a treatment that supports individuals when coping with injustice and gaining a new sense of justice. Such a psychological treatment can make an important contribution when it comes to building new trust and improving mental health. Ethical standards in coping with trauma and developing or restoring justice in post-conflict regions are indispensable to enable long-term peace. The course for new social justice can be set, through a just health system. Thereby, only programs and legal processes, which try to do justice to the survivors and take their needs into account, are ethically justifiable. Human rights and health cannot be separated in psychotherapy with survivors of war and terror. Based on ethical principles, new approaches must be generated for psychotherapy in war regions and with survivors of war and terror. The aim will be to make an important contribution to the mental and social reconstruction of countries after mass violence.
... Or, have the foundations of trust and civility upon which fully functioning societies depend been irrevocably damaged? There has been a spate of research regarding reconciliation after conflict, and if there is one simple fact that nearly all scholars agree on, it is that reconciliation is a profoundly human and social encounter (Clark, 2014;Gibson, 2004aGibson, , 2004bHamber, 2007;Hewstone et al., 2006;Meernik and Guerrero, 2014;Meernik et al., 2016;Mendeloff, 2004Mendeloff, , 2009Olsen et al., 2010;Staub, 2006Staub, , 2013. If we want to understand why reconciliation does or does not take root, we must begin by understanding the perspectives and interests of individuals. ...
... Indeed, since reconciliation became a buzzword in studies of transitional justice (especially after the formation of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission) and was held out as a rationale for the creation of the international criminal tribunals, there have been a Meernik number of sceptics. Many scholars are doubtful that reconciliation can be deliberately engineered by politicians (Mendeloff 2004(Mendeloff , 2009Snyder and Vinjamuri, 2003). In fact, some research has found that schools in ethnically divided nations may promote a one-sided and divisive view of history and society that holds one's own group out as the victor or the victim and the "other" as the aggressive and uncompromising force bent on domination (Cole, 2007). ...
Article
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In the aftermath of war and large-scale violence, how can nations function as societies? How can people learn to live together again? Or, have the foundations of trust, civility, and predictability upon which fully functioning societies depend been irrevocably damaged? If we want to understand why reconciliation does or does not take root, we must begin by understanding the perspectives and interests of individuals. In this article, I develop such a model of individual attitudes towards reconciliation. In particular, I analyse the determinants of individual beliefs about reconciliation, with a particular emphasis on the impact of violence in Colombia. I combine survey data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project survey on individual attitudes regarding reconciliation with data on political violence to measure the extent to which individuals live in environments characterised by violence and how this shapes their opinions about reconciliation.
... Others expressed an intense need for physical or psychological healing and community reconciliation, but respondents infrequently associated these objectives with gacaca. In the academic literature, the capacity of gacaca and other truth-finding mechanisms to heal has been called into question by some scholars that find that providing or listening to testimony in post-conflict situations may lead to re-traumatization, isolation, and insecurity (Brouneus, 2008(Brouneus, , 2010Mendeloff, 2009). My own results here present a complex picture of whether gacaca helped heal or further damage. ...
Article
In 2002 the Rwandan government asked thousands of untrained civilians to organize, staff, and operate the largest judicial experiment in human history: the gacaca courts. For nearly a decade, community residents met weekly to judge the fates of accused genocidaires. Critical to this process were survivors who acted as judges, provided testimony, and bore witness to the Rwandan government’s response to genocide. This paper documents the findings from qualitative fieldwork in Rwanda exploring survivor perceptions of the gacaca process and outcomes. In total, 57 stakeholders were interviewed and asked about their perspectives on the court’s procedures, limitations, accomplishments, and legacy. Results from this study indicate that although survivors desired and expected a variety of justice-related outcomes from the courts, including punishment for those responsible, material and symbolic reparations, peace and security, in the end, many were disappointed. Nevertheless, as the process wore on, many survivors continued to support gacaca’s operation because they believed it was the only way they could shape post-genocide narratives about Rwanda’s past, present and future. Ultimately this paper presents a more complex picture of how those on the ground understood the gacaca process.
... Research that seeks to better understand a victim's response to being a part of a RJ process often first considers the ways in which a more retributive justice system leaves the victim on the side of the process, to the detriment of their ability to feel both a part of what is happening and to avoid being re-traumatised (Mendeloff, 2009). This question provides the basis for the work done by Judith Herman, which used 22 in-depth interviews with victims of violent crime in the United States to better understand their views of justice (Herman, 2005). ...
Thesis
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This study sought to explore and develop a preliminary, yet substantive understanding of the ways in which the offender’s position within a Restorative Justice process is influenced and impacted by the wider system around them. In an RJ conference, a facilitator conducts a structured meeting between offenders, victims, and both supporters, to allow them to understand the consequences of an offence and decide how best to repair the harm. Little research has so far investigated the experience of getting to RJ conferences for offenders or considers how other participants may be positioning them within the wider system. The current study comprises fourteen semi-structured interviews with facilitators, managers, and offenders about their experiences with RJ conferences. Data was analysed using Constructivist Grounded Theory (Charmaz, 2014). A model was constructed which described the funnelling process of an offender moving towards or being excluded from attending a conference. Whether an offender made it to conference appeared to be most affected by an over-arching philosophy of victim-focus, the focus of the RJ system, the facilitators beliefs, the offenders’ motivations and relative powerlessness, and the victims’ motivations and perceived need for protection. Repairing harm is not easy in postmodern industrialised Western societies, even with the use of programmes designed to facilitate this. The findings of this study reveal just some of the difficulties with bringing in concepts of repair to a criminal justice system and a culture which is not necessarily used to focusing on community and restoration.
... Public declarations by political (or religious) authorities in front of vast audiences or Truth and Reconciliation processes are not enough to create the conditions under which all former fighters can feel reconciled with the rest of society (McIntosh, 2014;Mendeloff, 2009;Tihanyi & du Toit, 2005). Reconciliation has more to do with learning to live together on a daily basis than with encounters at forums. ...
Article
This study assessed reconciliation sentiment among former members of Colombian paramilitary and guerilla groups. A total of 103 participants who were detained in rehabilitation centers were presented with an augmented version of the Reconciliation Sentiment Questionnaire. Overall, participants considered that they had achieved some measure of reconciliation with the people they harmed. Most viewed themselves as able to control their nervousness and impulses in situations in which victims were physically present or victims were simply evoked, and most felt sure, to a reasonable extent, that victims did not intend to seek vengeance. Nevertheless, a minority—mostly former members of the guerillas and detainees who did not attend rehabilitation programs—was not sure that acts of vengeance would not be attempted. A majority of participants was, to some extent, willing to trust and cooperate with former victims and probably the society at large. Only two, however, were totally convinced that it would be possible to do so.
... Tyler 1984) as well as by consideration of distributive justice (on TJ, see Capoccia and Pop-Eleches 2019), or victims, the focus of an emerging literature on TJ programs (e.g. van der Merwe 2009;Mendeloff 2009;McEvoy and McConnachie 2012;Pham et al. 2016). Here we focus on the attitudes of the mass public. ...
Article
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How harshly should perpetrators of past abuses be punished, to reinforce the legitimacy of a new democracy? Drawing on sociopsychological theories, we hypothesize that prodemocratic mass attitudes are favored by the perception that defendants in transitional justice trials have been punished in a way that is morally proportional to their offenses. This perception is shaped by the social categorization of defendants and the opinions about the certainty of their guilt that predominate in the mass public. When defendants are largely seen as co-ethnics and their guilt is contested, like in the West German case, prodemocratic attitudes are likely to be strengthened by lighter punishments and undermined by harsher sanctions. The analysis of subnational variation in patterns of punishment in postwar West Germany confirms this hypothesis and shows that these attitudinal effects persist in the medium term. Our findings have implications for research on transitional justice and democratization.
... If the story telling is intended by psychiatrist to cure the client and keep it confidential for clinical record, the social scientist and humanitarian agencies use the document of the story in the mass atrocity or collective violence as part of reconciliation process. The use of storytelling for both purposes has been recognized by the humanitarian agencies and human right activists, but in practice it is often carried out in the separated programs and unrelated one to another (Pintar, 2000;Chaitin, 2003;Zurburchen, 2005, Mendeloff, 2009. ...
... The arbitrary or capricious way that torture is meted out may contribute to intense and persistent feelings of anger at injustice, but this is mediated by the meanings ascribed to the situation (Batson, Chou & Givens, 2009;Wemmers & Manirabona, 2014;Tay et al., 2015). There are universal expectations for a just world and forms of restorative justice aim at re-establishing this moral order for individuals and communities (Mendeloff, 2009). However, notions of justice and fairness vary with different social, moral and political systems (Avruch, 2010;Hatfield & Rapson, 2005). ...
Article
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This paper explores the significance of cultural variations in emotion for the meaning and impact of torture, focusing on the dynamics of shame, humiliation, and powerlessness. Forms of physical and psychological pain and suffering share some common neurobiological pathways and regulatory systems that are influenced by social and cultural factors. All forms of torture follow an affective logic rooted both in human biology and in local social and cultural meanings of experience. Understanding the impact of specific forms of torture on individuals requires knowledge of their learning histories, and of the personal and cultural meanings of specific kinds of violence. Exploring cultural meanings requires attention to over-arching discourse, embodied practices, and everyday engagements with an ecosocial environment. Restitution, treatment and recovery can then be guided by knowledge of cultural meanings, dynamics, and strategies for coping with catastrophic threats, injury, humiliation, helplessness and loss.
... Public declarations by political (or religious) authorities in front of vast audiences or Truth and Reconciliation processes are not enough to create the conditions under which all former fighters can feel reconciled with the rest of society (McIntosh, 2014;Mendeloff, 2009;Tihanyi & du Toit, 2005). Reconciliation has more to do with learning to live together on a daily basis than with encounters at forums. ...
Article
This study mapped the different personal positions of Colombian adults regarding the determinants of the acceptability of political amnesties in post‐conflict contexts. A total of 380 Colombian adults between the ages of 18 and 80, living either in the capital or in rural areas (Cundinamarca and Chocó), were presented with 24 scenarios describing the situation of an amnesty applicant. They were composed according to a four‐factor schema: the personal willingness to be part of the rebel group at the time of recruitment, the quality of information the applicant was willing to disclose, the presence of an apology, and the level of punishment already suffered. Through cluster analysis, five qualitatively different positions were found: Never acceptable (20%), Almost always acceptable (13%), Depends jointly on the quality of information and repentance (45%), Depends on repentance and volunteering (8%), and Depends only on the quality of information (2%). The remaining participants (12%) did not express a position. For a majority of participants, whether they live in the capital or in rural areas, granting a political amnesty to a combatant is not unacceptable as a matter of principle. For those who believe that amnesty is possible, it must be deserved: the recipient must demonstrate that he or she no longer represents a potential danger to neighbors or future co‐workers. This implies that amnesties are granted on a case‐by‐case basis, after examination of each particular situation.
... Action or the carrying out of some act can never be forgiven, the situation must be understood and the agent who carries out the action is the element which is forgiven. 53 Rationally, metaphysically and even psychologically, a criminal incident is not able to be reduced to the agent alone 54 . Reduction of this kind ignores the human capacity to repent, choose and transform oneself for the better. ...
... Nonetheless, the impact of truth-telling in transitional processes could be contradictory. Facing the perpetrator and knowing the details of the murder in given cases would provoke a re-traumatisation of the victim and enable the contentious coexistence through increasing resentment and intensifying the polarisation between victims and perpetrators (Hayner 2001;Payne 2008;Hamber 2009;Mendeloff 2009). Indeed, the impact of truth commissions is not similar and constant across all cases. ...
Article
National Reconciliation in Algeria is a controversial subject that provokes considerable debates among human rights organisations as well as opposition parties. Since the third term of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, many manifestations of civil war victims have been organised across the country. While it is deemed for a long time that the enforced disappearance file is the only stake for the reconciliation process, these recent protests illustrate the extent to which the process fails to address the past legacies. Alternative pasts have resurfaced to challenge the official discourse that has been implanted for twenty years. Using a bottom-up approach, this article inquiries and assesses national reconciliation in Algeria by distinguishing between different victims’ groups. It demonstrates how the process has been presented, interpreted, and evaluated by different victims’ groups based on the in-depth research.
... This occurred, for example, in South Africa (Gibson 2006) and Timor-Leste (Kent 2012). But it is by no means clear that truth-telling provides relief or facilitates healing for victims (Mendeloff 2009). In some instances, these processes may even make matters worse for some victims, by asking them to relive their traumas whilst perpetrators enjoy impunity (Brounéus 2010). ...
Article
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After violent conflicts, international actors face difficult choices about whether and how to provide assistance. These decisions can have immense consequences. As aid always occurs under conditions of scarcity, theoretical reflection is crucial to reveal the opportunity costs and potential tensions between alternative courses of action. Yet there has been relatively little scholarly reflection on what should constitute priorities for post-conflict assistance and why. This paper advances this debate by comparing two very different areas of assistance that both embody compelling values and goals: public health and transitional justice. It argues that aid for public health deserves greater attention based on powerful normative considerations and its impressive empirical record. It also suggests the need to examine not only clearly underperforming areas, but also tough cases. Transitional justice, despite its strong normative foundations, faces challenges and limitations that justify reform and a reconsideration of the emphasis commonly placed on it. Our intention is not to suggest that long-standing commitments ought to be abandoned or that all aid should be allocated to health. Rather, by scrutinising the priorities of international assistance, we hope to start a general discussion about how the international community can best help societies heal after conflict.
... The literature on transitional justice provides crucial evidence of how an unlimited level of hostility, crime, violation, rape and loss has traumatized and divided societies, making it difficult to establish peace and trust between perpetrators and victims in post-conflict eras (Barsalou 2008;Mendeloff 2009). Transitional justice is not a particular kind of justice, but rather justice tailored to the needs of communities changing a phase of widespread human rights violations (International Center for Transitional Justice 2009). ...
Thesis
Recent studies on international mediation have mainly focused on the impact of mediation on armed intra-state conflicts, emphasizing successfully completed ceasefires and peace agreements. Scholars have largely neglected the important part which mediation has played in implementing peace agreements. Accordingly, this dissertation aims at closing the research gap, analysing the impact of "pure" and "power" mediation on the successful implementation of peace agreements. To explain why some agreements have been successfully implemented, whereas others have experienced less progress, one should duly acknowledge the third-party mediators' performance involving various qualities such as leverage power, facilitation, communication, monitoring, dispute resolution, confidence-building, providing security and spoiler prevention, planning timetable and arranging financial support for the implementation process. This study demonstrates that multiple power mediators (the UK and the Republic of Ireland in Ulster) and multiple pure mediators (the UN and COPAZ in El Salvador) are mutually supportive in the successful implementation of peace agreements. They are by far more successful than a singly acting pure mediator (Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Mindanao) or a single power mediator (Syrian Arab Republic in Lebanon). My thesis conducts a case analysis and likewise a comparative case analysis of four comprehensive peace agreements, revealing the two highest and the two lowest degrees of implementation. It takes extensive account of the difficult conditions under which governments and rebels have implemented peace agreements supported by international mediators. It thus reinforces the theories and practice of international mediation, of implementing peace agreements and of sustainable peace. Failed implementation leads to humanitarian disasters such as in Angola, Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
... Whereas the intergenerational effects of cultural trauma has long been the subject of research in disciplines ranging from anthropology to political science (Argenti & Schramm, 2009;Galtung, 1990;Martino, 1980;Mendeloff, 2009;Sullivan, 1986), the psychological and psychiatric literatures turned to this issue in the wake of converging clinical observations, demands for clinical services, and social organizations of Holocaust survivor offspring (Danieli, 1985;Solkoff, 1981;Steinitz, 1982). As Holocaust survivors aged, their adult offspring began to explore the legacy of the Holocaust, not only politically and culturally, but for their own development and psychological functioning, through literature, film, theater, music, and memoir (Aarons, 2016;Goldberg, 2015;McGlothlin, 2006;Spiegelman, 2003). ...
Article
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The question of whether and how the effects of cultural trauma can be transmitted intergenerationally from parents to offspring, or even to later generations, has evoked interest and controversy in academic and popular forums. Recent methodological advances have spurred investigations of potential epigenetic mechanisms for this inheritance, representing an exciting area of emergent research. Epigenetics has been described as the means through which environmental influences “get under the skin,” directing transcriptional activity and influencing the expression or suppression of genes. Over the past decade, this complex environment–biology interface has shown increasing promise as a potential pathway for the intergenerational transmission of the effects of trauma. This article reviews challenges facing research on cultural trauma, biological findings in trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder, and putative epigenetic mechanisms for transmission of trauma effects, including through social, intrauterine, and gametic pathways. Implications for transmission of cultural trauma effects are discussed, focused on the relevance of cultural narratives and the possibilities of resilience and adaptivity.
... In general, we might refer to these diverse applications as a narrative technique that provides a structure or container through which the victim will disclose sensitive information. From a psychotherapeutic perspective, narrative techniques, when provided by a validating third party (whether it be within a hearing, provided by a therapist, or carried out in a social support group setting), can bring relief from emotional and psychological pain, anguish and suffering, and promote coping with violent crime and other abuses (Mendeloff, 2009). ...
Article
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Gender-based violence (GBV), characterized by the abduction or rape of women and girls to humiliate, intimidate, and traumatize them and their communities, is a profoundly disturbing tactic in international conflict. Long after armed conflict has ended, survivors continue to experience physical injuries, psychological trauma, and social and cultural stigma. Guilt, shame, and continued interpersonal violence can become a normalized part of daily life, significantly challenging the road to healing and recovery. Research about self-disclosure and narrative after GBV has shown that help seeking rates are shockingly low, with estimates ranging from 4-27%. From a feminist and a humanistic perspective, studying trauma history and related help seeking is delicate work that must use interview processes that ensure the survivor can tell her story without revictimization, while also aiming to restore personal mastery, empowerment, and self-understanding. Based on theories about benefits and challenges of the narrative after GBV and trauma, we propose that the Clinical Ethnographic Narrative Interview (CENI) allows researchers and practitioners a safe container to examine the complex interplay between suffering, culture, and help seeking. Using this interview, the interviewer and the participant work as partners to define, compare, and contrast the socio-cultural barriers and facilitators of help seeking. This paper explains the narrative theory and the challenges and benefits of the narrative approach after trauma. Then we provide support for the use of the CENI for an understanding of the help seeking process and facilitating a health-promoting narrative interview for survivors. We then address implications for research, practice, and policy. © 2017 Cises Green Open Access under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.
... Khmer Rouge operatives have been found guilty of genocide. In these cases, although every single perpetrator was not brought to justice, the symbolic value of the trials sent strong messages about right and wrong to victims and offenders alike, although whether any benefits were lasting and significant is debatable (see, e.g., Mendeloff 2009). However, no such society-wide reckoning process has taken place in Russia. ...
Chapter
The construction of memorials is a well-established cultural practice, widely recognised and expected. We hear about them; how they are planned, designed, debated, altered, and sometimes removed. They are celebrated, inaugurated, and critiqued; and they become the focal point for anniversaries and forms of memorialisation through which accounts of events are staged. Memorials have become a part of our cultural toolkit. It is taken for granted that major events need memorials, and it has also become commonplace to see such memorials being recast and reinterpreted to suit changing social conditions and needs including the vagaries of ideologies. On our TV screens, we have witnessed the removal of statues of leading communist figures, first from countries within the former communist bloc of Eastern Europe and then throughout the former Soviet Union. More recently, the removal of the Rhodes statue from the University of Cape Town in 2015 not only became internationally debated through the Internet, it also inspired similar claims against monuments elsewhere. In various ways, memorials and memorialisation activities are attracting attention, and they often provide a confused mix of genuine emotive involvement, political propaganda, and media interests. It is within this complex node of interconnections that the raison d’être for this volume is to be found.
Article
Just as technological advances have created new spaces in the virtual world so that more people can have adequate representation, they have also aided women and men in the form of human rights. In the years following the end of the last dictatorship in Argentina (1976‐1983), women learned that they could use technology to locate information regarding family members and other loved ones who are still missing in the wake of the brutal politics of the military dictatorships. The important organization Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, has been a pioneer in using technology to find their missing grandchildren, many of whom were given up for adoption after the children's parents were forcibly disappeared. The grandmothers discovered that the mitochondrial DNA strand was a maternal molecule that could be used to prove one's identity. This work carefully examines the technological feats of the world‐renowned human rights organization Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo who have forged a clear and present voice in the public sphere. Included are exclusive interviews with a child of the disappeared, Flavia Battistiol, along with current Vice President of the organization, Rosa Roisinblit, who share the vital role technology has played in contributing to the grandmothers' quest to recuperate the identities of the missing children.
Chapter
Transitional Justice hat sich rasant entwickelt und ist heute ein fester Bestandteil von nationalen wie internationalen Initiativen zur Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Trotz dieser weltweiten Resonanz sowie einer Vielzahl von wissenschaftlichen Publikationen ist die Materie Transitional Justice nach wie vor in der Entwicklung begriffen. Viele Fragen zu den Möglichkeiten der Aufarbeitung von Unrechtsvergangenheit sind noch offen.
Article
In the last thirty years, tens of thousands of Sri Lankans have experienced enforced disappearances of family members. In 2016, many members of such families came before the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms, which was mandated to gather views on how people thought the transitional justice mechanisms should be designed, how they should be established and how they should function. This process allowed the families to share their experiences and to outline what they saw as important in shaping the transitional justice mechanisms. This article surveys the complex nature of their distress and psychosocial needs, as expressed by them during the consultations. It proposes that transitional justice mechanisms should be designed to protect their psychosocial well-being, address their complex psychosocial needs, and provide them with support and protection before, during and after their engagement in the mechanisms.
Chapter
Despite the implementation of transitional justice programs - restorative and retributive - across post-conflict societies worldwide, there is a dearth of studies into their effects on mental health and psychosocial outcomes amongst victims of mass human rights violations. The present chapter describes and discusses the existing evidence with regards to mental health outcomes of different types of transitional justice approaches applied across contemporary post-conflict societies. Our targeted review suggests that a wide range of factors, including victims’ perception of justice, levels of past traumatic exposure, individuals’ experiences during transition justice proceedings, psychiatric morbidity, severity of imposed punishments for the perpetrator, attitudes in relation to reconciliation, ongoing political and social contexts interact in a complex manner in shaping the experience of victim participation (in the form of truth telling, narrating trauma histories) before transition justice proceedings. Remarkably, most studies have focused largely on the mental health effects of victim participation before transition justice proceedings with comparatively less attention paid to the broader community experience and needs. Our findings support the need for further investigations into the mental health impact of transitional justice intervention on victims of mass human rights violations confronted with the challenging task of providing testimonial evidence before decision makers.
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Für die Evaluierung von Aufarbeitungsprozessen haben sich noch keine allgemein anerkannten Standards herausgebildet. Im Schrifttum wird kritisiert, die Transitional Justice-Forschung erfolge bisher zu sehr auf normativer anstatt auf empirischer Grundlage. Es bleibe unklar, ob Transitional Justice überhaupt „funktioniere“, da Ergebnisse nur „behauptet“ und nicht „problematisiert“ würden. Insbesondere mit Blick auf die positiven Wirkungen, die Strafverfahren bei der Aufarbeitung von Systemunrecht zugeschrieben würden, bedürfe es einer gründlichen empirischen Überprüfung, ob diese Wirkungen tatsächlich erzielt würden oder ob es sich um Wunschdenken handle.
Book
This book provides the most comprehensive and scientific assessment to date of what it means to appear before war crimes tribunals. This ground-breaking analysis, conducted with the cooperation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Victims and Witnesses Section, examines the positive and negative impact that testifying has on those who bear witness to the horrors of war by shedding new light on the process. While most witnesses have positive feelings and believe they contributed to international justice, there is a small but critical segment of witnesses whose security, health, and well-being are adversely affected after testifying. The witness experience is examined holistically, including witness' perceptions of their physical and psychological well-being. Because identity (gender and ethnicity) and war trauma were central to the ICTY's mandate and the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, the research explores in-depth how they have impacted the most critical stakeholders of any transitional justice mechanism: the witnesses. Provides insight into multiple dimensions of the witness experience Uses the lens of identity (ethnicity and gender) and experience (war trauma) to evaluate the impact of testifying Contributes to a better understanding of the most important legacies of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for the ICC and future tribunals. © Kimi Lynn King and James David Meernik 2017. All rights reserved.
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This chapter reflects on the challenges facing the implementation of land restitution mechanisms in Colombia in a post-agreement scenario with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejercito del Pueblo (FARC—EP). It discusses the issue of the dispossession and concentration of rural assets, and how this is connected to violence and the failure/absence of state institutions. The chapter undertakes a critical reading of a specific transitional justice mechanism that has been implemented in Colombia (the Victims and Land Restitution Law) and the limitations it faces. It presents some lessons from the Victims and Land Restitution Law that might be useful to consider in the implementation of transitional justice agreements between the FARC—EP and the Colombian Government. In the case of Colombia, this inequality in the provision of rights and land is a consequence of the design of the system that regulates property rights in the country.
Chapter
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Since the 1980s, truth commissions have proliferated. Advocates argue they produce a common history of violence and repression that may promote such things as human rights and reconciliation. Nonetheless, the theoretical and empirical bases for these claims are controversial. This chapter provides an overview of the truth commission as a tool for state construction of history. After defining truth commissions, the principled and practical reasons why they are created are outlined. Then, I discuss how design and operational decisions shape the history that is produced, highlighting the strategic behavior of governments, victims, activists, and external interests as they advocate for or attempt to obstruct truth commission processes. I conclude by reflecting upon the lasting impact of truth commission processes.
Article
Despite an increase in scholarly efforts to evaluate transitional justice (TJ) programmes, there is little agreement over what TJ is, what effects it could be expected to have or how TJ mechanisms should be judged. This article contributes to the literature on TJ evaluation by showing how differences in understanding of the nature and value of the 'justice' in TJ affect what is evaluated and how findings are interpreted. The article parses the values inherent in TJ evaluations (retributive, restorative and transformative justice, valuable for intrinsic or instrumental reasons) in order to think through the ways in which different value orientations lead to different appraisals. A broad sample of literature on the TJ programme in Sierra Leone is analyzed according to the value orientations it tends towards. The analysis finds that evaluations of Sierra Leonean TJ can be found displaying each of the six value orientations, with no agreement about the success of the TJ programme from within orientations, let alone across them. Additionally, it is argued that scholars and researchers are rarely explicit about their orientations, and there is insufficient consideration of the political implications of different value positions for prescriptions for future TJ programmes. © The Author (2017). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
Article
Intersections exist regarding how institutions and individuals respond in the wake of mass violence, and we explore one theoretical perspective: resilience—the ability to overcome in the face of adversity. By controlling for the institutional context, we analyze the microlevel impact of testifying on witnesses who testify. New survey data provide information from 300 prosecution, defence, and Chambers witnesses who appeared at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. We test propositions about resilience related to trauma, motivations, contributions to justice, fair treatment, witness fatigue, and human security. Witnesses who experienced greater trauma, who were more highly motivated, who believed they contributed to justice, and who were satisfied with their current situation were more positive about testifying. Those who believed they were treated fairly by prosecution and defence were less negative. The findings add to the debate about the burden of bearing witness in post-conflict societies and why some overcome adverse experiences related to mass violence.
Book
Cambridge Core - Public International Law - A Critical Introduction to International Criminal Law - by Carsten Stahn
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This chapter provides a historical overview of the Red Terror (1976–1978) within the context of the Ethiopian Revolution (1974). It draws on Hiwot Teffera’s 2012 memoir, Tower in the Sky, to analyse the emotional content of activism and ideology that fueled social–political change during the Revolution, and which later transformed into the bedrock of memorialization efforts. Drawing on historical studies of the period, the major “characters” of the Revolution are introduced: Emperor Haile Selassie; the peasants; the activists; and the military, which ended up taking control of the Revolution under the helm of Col. Mengistu Hailemariam. These actors are then placed into the historical timeline of events. The turmoil of multiple actors’ resort to violence is documented, against the backdrop of a steady concentration of means for inflicting violence within the hands of the military government, including extrajudicial executions, large-scale imprisonment, and torture. The chapter concludes with reflections from interviews with survivors of prison and torture, on when and how they personally experienced the end of the Red Terror.
Book
Cambridge Core - American Studies - Vengeful Citizens, Violent States - by Rachel Stein
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For over a decade, judicial accountability of mass human rights violations committed during the last civil-military dictatorship in Argentina (1976–1983) has been carried out in federal courts by regular judges, following the rules of the National Code of Criminal Procedure. Research on these trials has focused mainly on the victims and the accused. This article opens a different path by exploring the affective experiences of the judges presiding over and leading the trials. Based on interviews with 18 federal court judges and some participant observation, in this article we present a descriptive exploration of the judges’ experiences and sensemaking processes. We examine the complex interaction between the professional requirement to separate emotions from judgment and the emotional toll that these trials produce in the personal and professional lives of the judges. We end with short reflections on these crimes against humanity trials in the post-Transitional Justice context.
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2022): Sprechen, Schweigen, (Um)deuten-Wie die politisch-gesellschaftliche Aufarbeitung fürsorgerischer Zwangsmassnahmen in der Schweiz den Umgang mit der elterlichen Geschichte verändert: Eine qualitative Studie mit Nachkommen Betroffener. In: Gesellschaft-Individuum-Sozialisation (GISo). Zeit-schrift für Sozialisationsforschung, 3 (1). Der vorliegende Beitrag handelt davon, wie die politisch-gesellschaftliche Aufarbeitung fürsorgerischer Zwangsmassnahmen (FSZM) den familialen Umgang mit der Geschichte der Eltern veränderte. Dazu wurden sechs biografische Interviews mit Nachkommen Betroffener im Hinblick auf Sozialisationserfah-rungen mittels der Grounded-Theory-Methodologie (GTM) analysiert. Die Ergebnisse zeigen zum einen, dass die politisch-gesellschaftliche Aufarbeitung Prozesse der Enttabuisierung der elterlichen Ge-schichte in Familien anstiess, die auch emotionale Annäherungen zwischen Nachkommen und betroffe-nen Elternteilen ermöglichte. Sie eröffnete aber auch neue familiale Spannungsfelder, die um die Frage der Betroffenheit des Elternteils kreisten und sich in neuen Konstellationen des Schweigens niederschlu-gen. Zum anderen wird deutlich, dass die politisch-gesellschaftliche Aufarbeitung zu bedeutungsvollen persönlichen Klärungen und neuen Deutungen bezüglich erlebter elterlicher Verhaltensweisen und in-tergenerationalen Weitergaben führte. Insgesamt vermag die politisch-gesellschaftliche Aufarbeitung gewisse persönliche und familiale Belastungen aufzulösen, gleichzeitig bringt sie aber auch neue hervor.
Article
Contemporary justice‐making processes often focus on reconciliation or legal retribution, but not on the complexity of victimhood beyond individual subjectivity or refusals of state propositions for social repair. In Colombia, where drug cartels and state‐sponsored violence had terrorized the population for over fifty years, it was not forgiveness and acceptance that punctuated the turn of the twenty‐first century, but the refusal to reconcile with the state's duplicity regarding the disappearance and death of thousands. This essay illustrates how irreconciliation as an affective sentiment is taking shape in Colombia through forms of reattribution that take the form of victim visibilizations. In analysing the strategic use of victim visibilizations as a refusal of state accountability, their expansion of the notion of victimhood, and their politics of irreconciliation, I show how even with the state's remorse‐driven discourses, the public's understanding that political, judicial, and social accountability was not possible and pushed them to chart new strategies for disclosure and healing. Rendre l'absent visible : victimes et irréconciliabilité de la violence Résumé Les processus contemporains de fabrique de la justice se concentrent souvent sur la réconciliation ou le dédommagement en justice, mais mésestiment la complexité du statut de victime, au‐delà de la subjectivité individuelle ou des refus de propositions de réparation sociale par l’État. En Colombie, où la population est terrorisée à la fois par les cartels de la drogue et par la violence couverte par l’État depuis plus de cinquante ans, ce n'est pas l'oubli ni l'acceptation qui ont marqué le début du XXIe siècle, mais un refus de conciliation avec la duplicité de l’État à propos de la disparition et de la mort de milliers de personnes. Le présent article illustre la manière dont l'irréconciliation, en tant que sentiment affectif, prend forme en Colombie à travers des formes de réattribution par la visibilisation des victimes. En analysant l'usage stratégique de la visibilisation des victimes comme refus de la responsabilité de l’État, l’élargissement de la notion de victime et la politique d'irréconciliation, l'autrice montre comment c'est après avoir compris l'impossibilité de la responsabilisation politique, judiciaire et sociale malgré le repentir discursif de l’État que le public a trouvé de nouvelles stratégies de divulgation et de guérison.
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The practice of torture is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and often associated with war and oppressive rule. Hundreds of thousands of survivors of torture live in the region’s cities, settlements and refugee camps, where mental health services are extremely limited. Current evidence-based practice guidelines for the rehabilitation of torture survivors provide little guidance for practitioners in sub-Saharan Africa whose clients must contend with contextual realities, often very different from those of the Global North. Using a mixed-methods design, I investigated the work of three torture treatment centres in different parts of sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of documenting the needs of actual help-seeking survivors of torture in sub-Saharan Africa and analysing their experiences of recovery through interaction with existing mental health services. To this end, I reviewed the therapeutic charts of 85 torture surviving adults in care and conducted in-depth narrative interviews with fifteen counsellors and sixteen adult torture surviving clients. The study incorporated uni- and bivariate statistical analyses of quantitative data as well as thematic and narrative forms of qualitative analysis. The mixed method research approach shaped data collection, analysis and interpretation. The results revealed several categories of torture survivors reporting extremely high levels of anxiety and mood-related symptomatology. The impact of recent violent bereavement and ongoing threat were identified as therapeutic issues that are inadequately addressed in existing treatment guidelines. Both counsellors and clients emphasized the importance of trauma exposure interventions, strengthening family relationships, problem solving, symptom management, and nurturing hope. Based on these findings I propose the Foundational Capacities Approach (FCA), an approach to counselling torture survivors designed in response to the contextual realities of torture survivors in sub-Saharan Africa. Although FCA was developed in sub-Saharan Africa, torture survivors in other parts of the world face many of the same challenges, and practitioners in other regions might find value in the findings and conclusions of this research.
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A case study assessment based on the implementation of key recommendations, impunity and subsequent human rights and democracy situations.
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The article critically examines transitional justice mechanisms to determine if historical abuse inquiries can learn from this field of practice. The article explores the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry which reported its findings in January 2017 as a vehicle for addressing what lessons might be learned or shared between the fields of transitional justice and investigations into historical abuse. Through a detailed analysis of empirical research with those that gave testimony to the Inquiry, including fourthly-three victims and Inquiry transcripts, the article explores to what extent the Inquiry was victim-centered, enabled victim participation (beyond giving testimony) and addressed victim needs. The article shows that many of the flaws of transitional justice mechanisms have been replicated when dealing with historical child abuse. Drawing on lessons from transitional justice – both positive and negative – the article outlines five broad areas for consideration that could strengthen the victim-centered nature of approaches to dealing with the legacy of historical child abuse. The article concludes that addressing victims’ needs should be at the center and drive approaches and processes for both transitional justice and historical institutional abuse.
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Totalitarian regimes are characterized by their tendency and ability to silence voices that dissent or tell stories that their leaders would prefer remain unheard. When such regimes end, there is often a wave of disclosures and remembrance by victims of state repression. What happens to such dissonant memories depends on the attitudes of the new state toward uncomfortable truths and, in particular, toward their place in national history and identity. The Soviet and Russian attitudes toward the gulag system comprise a very revealing case study of this relationship. In the immediate aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union, there was a surge in studies of how the citizens of the recently independent countries were constructing their identities and coming to terms with events they had been unable to memorialize or, sometimes, even publicly remember (see, e.g., Etkind 2013; Verdery 1999; Watson 1994). However, few of these studies have focused on Russian struggles to come to terms with gulag heritage and memories. This chapter hopes to go some way towards filling that gap by categorizing and analyzing the various forms and narratives of memorialization of the victims of Soviet repression at the site of the first Soviet gulag.
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This concluding chapter places the key insights from analysis of the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum (RTMMM) into the context of a new political transition in Ethiopia on-going at the time of writing. Whether this transition will result in a more democratic country has yet to be determined. Analysis of the RTMMM cannot predict how multiple memories will play out in relation to new political claims in the current context, but it suggests that grappling with competing historical claims will be central to how Ethiopia navigates this new political moment. This chapter analyzes the current conjuncture in Ethiopian politics, in relation to the concept of memory from the margins developed across the book, and Jacques Rancière’s theorization of democracy. Memory from the margins reveals that the present moment was not inevitable, but is the contingency of what came to pass. Recognizing contingency opens space for making claims without an established “right” to do so, thereby contributing to an idea of the future that is likewise undetermined. The RTMMM presents a powerful argument that a museum’s place is precisely as ambiguous instigation to recognize the multiple histories that produced the present and define the possibility for a future that is open to new claims, and, while this is a necessary component of democratic practices, it offers no guarantees.
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This book asks the question: what is the role of memory during a political transition? Drawing on Ethiopian history, transitional justice, and scholarly fields concerned with memory, museums and trauma, the author reveals a complex picture of global, transnational, national and local forces as they converge in the story of the creation and continued life of one modest museum in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa—the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum. It is a study from multiple margins: neither the case of Ethiopia nor memorialization is central to transitional justice discourse, and within Ethiopia, the history of the Red Terror is sidelined in contemporary politics. From these nested margins, traumatic memory emerges as an ambiguous social and political force. The contributions, meaning and limitations of memory emerge at the point of discrete interactions between memory advocates, survivor-docents and visitors. Memory from the margins is revealed as powerful for how it disrupts, not builds, new forms of community. Bridget Conley is Research Director of the World Peace Foundation at The Fletcher School, USA. She was previously Research Director for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience.
Article
In states emerging from mass violence and human rights abuses, do individuals prefer retributive punishment of perpetrators through trials, or do they wish to be compensated with land or monetary reparations for their injuries? How does the concrete option of prosecutions by the International Criminal Court (ICC) moderate these preferences? Using unique survey data from 507 Kenyans collected in 2015, we build on and add nuance to the empirical literature that interrogates the link between exposure to mass violence and post-conflict justice preferences. We find that while some individuals prefer reparative justice, victims and witnesses generally want perpetrators to be prosecuted. Even for those who are co-ethnics of government leaders – who allegedly instigated widespread killing, sexual assaults and displacements – direct exposure to those acts leads to greater desire for prosecutions. We further find that one’s personal experience with violence also leads one to reject domestic justice in favor of international justice: victims and witnesses who favored retributive justice are highly likely to believe that the ICC is the best option for prosecuting perpetrators.
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This chapter focuses on the interactions between the key players who shaped the institutional form, exhibition narrative and pedagogical goals of the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum (RTMMM). The process included strongly debated differences of opinion. Tracing these debates demonstrates that “memory from the margins” does not take shape as a singular construct in opposition to unified hegemonic memory. Both forms of memory are replete with internal differences. The second part of this chapter provides an introduction to RTMMM’s exhibition, illustrating how these differences remain legible in the Museum’s final structure and exhibition, contributing to tensions between the overarching historical narrative, the precise objects and forms displayed in the exhibition, and the character of lessons that might learned through a visit. In this way, the RTMMM, like other memorial museums, displays memory’s disjunctions between a reference to the past, a present construction of community, and a call to ethics. However, tensions between memory’s composite parts are not a distraction from, but rather constitutive of, the power of a memorial museum experience.
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This chapter asks why there is a Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum, versus another memorial form or nothing at all? Drawing on interviews with Ethiopian actors, site visits, and debates within museum and memory studies, the answer is found in four critical influences. First, is the commitment of memorial activists. Second, are memorial museums created in Ethiopia’s regional capitals dedicated to the history of the armed movements that overthrew the military regime. Third, is transitional justice: prosecutions of former regime officials that examined the history of the Red Terror in terms of abuses, perpetrators, and victims, a narrative arc that resonates with how memorial museums narrate the past. Fourth, are material objects: exhumed human remains and a simple memorial stone, which together provided a reason for creating a physical site and a foothold for where that site should exist in the country’s capital. These four factors both resonate with the explanations for the rise of memorial museums as found in the disciplines of memory studies and transitional justice, and reveal innovations in the Ethiopian context.
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Survivors of violence play an enormously important role as guides at the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum (RTMMM), as is commonly the case at memorial museums around the world. The tour is a performance of memory: the exhibition provides a script, but it is animated by the interactions of the survivor-docent and the visitor. Intended to educate about and transmit an affective attachment to the past, these interactions also invite the visitor to join a community that is defined by an ethical stance against violent politics. However, intentions do not capture the complications of the actual encounter. In paying close attention to how neither “survivor-docent” nor “visitor” constitutes a homogeneous identity category, analysis of the tour performance reveals points of resistance to the goal of consolidating a community around ethical lessons learned from the past. Drawing on extensive interviews with the RTMMM survivor-docents, comparison with studies from other survivors’ experiences in memorial museums, analysis of RTMMM visitor comments, and insights from trauma studies, the chapter reveals that memory from the margins unsettles a visitor’s ability to incorporate the history within their given frameworks for making meaning. This disruption does not detract from, but rather constitutes the Museum’s most profound impact.
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Dieser Beitrag setzt sich mit der Bedeutung von Anerkennung im Rahmen von Transitional Justice auseinander. Die Bedeutung dieses Begriffes erschließt sich beispielsweise im Kontext von Wahrheitskommissionen. Diese zielen einerseits darauf ab, die von den Opfern erlittenen Gewalterfahrungen öffentlich anzuerkennen und damit zur Überwindung von Traumata beizutragen. Andererseits erheben sie den Anspruch, durch die Anerkennung der „Wahrheit“ über ein vergangenes Unrecht den Übergang zu einer neuen, demokratischen und rechtsstaatlich verfassten Gesellschaft zu befördern. Auch in der Auseinandersetzung mit Reparationsprogrammen und Gerichtsverfahren taucht der Begriff der Anerkennung immer wieder auf. Im vorliegenden Kapitel wird ausgehend von der philosophischen Diskussion des Anerkennungsbegriffs nachgefragt, ob Anerkennung im Rahmen der Transitional Justice überhaupt möglich ist und inwiefern Anerkennung auch als Form der Herrschaftsausübung verstanden werden kann.
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This article presents unique material from in-depth interviews with 16 women in Rwanda who have testified in the gacaca, the village tribunals initiated to enhance reconciliation after the 1994 genocide. The aim of the interviews was to learn more about how testifying in such a public event as the gacaca affects psychological health. Do the women find the experience healing or retraumatizing? Are there other effects involved? There has been an assumption that testifying in truth and reconciliation commissions is a healing experience for survivors, and healing has been a central concept in the general reconciliation literature and in political rhetoric around truth commissions. However, the findings of the present study are alarming. Traumatization, ill-health, isolation, and insecurity dominate the lives of these testifying women. They are threatened and harassed before, during, and after giving testimony in the gacaca. The article provides a picture of the reconciliation process that we seldom see.
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The article focuses on survivors' perspectives of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). It probes their feelings, thoughts and views both before and after interacting with the Commission. Their feelings and opinions about issues such as justice, punishment and amnesty are explored. This information, which forms the backbone of this article, was obtained from interviews with twenty survivors of political violence committed under the apartheid government. The article shows that healing, truth, justice and reconciliation are interrelated. For survivors the relationships between the concepts is not linear, that is truth does not automatically lead to reconciliation. The article demonstrates that those who interacted with the TRC held a range of largely legitimate expectations; most expected, at the very least, that they would get some truth about their case. Many are currently feeling let down by the TRC process, despite its successes at publicising the atrocities of the past and fostering national reconciliation.
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Human Rights Quarterly 24.3 (2002) 573-639 Karl Jaspers In the last decade, there has been a burgeoning interest in the question of how countries recover from episodes of mass violence or gross human rights violations. This interest has focused on the concept of transitional justice, a term we use to describe the processes by which a state seeks to redress the violations of a prior regime. Despite the fact that military and political leaders who ordered or directed mass terror generally have evaded accountability for their deeds, justice—in the form of criminal trials—has been the rallying cry of many who seek to repair the injury individuals and communities have sustained as a result of these heinous acts. As dictatorships and repressive regimes fell in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, human rights scholars and advocates pressed states to initiate domestic criminal proceedings against the notorious intellectual authors of mass terror and their faithful subordinates. However, the fragile democracies, weak judiciaries, and amnesty laws made domestic trials difficult to institute. Further, the character of war has shifted from inter- to intra-state conflict since World War II. These wars reflect intense competition for power and wealth among groups struggling for supremacy. Often characterized as racially, ethnically, or tribally motivated, one commonality among these conflicts is that warring forces target civilian populations, particularly women and children, and cause massive destruction of infrastructure. Mass violence results in the breakdown of societal structures—social and economic institutions, and networks of familial and intimate relationships that provide the foundation for a functioning community. Indiscriminate and episodic violence occurs at random and affects people at a neighborhood level. Even where the violence is centrally planned (as in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Rwanda), the collaboration of paramilitary with military units produces acts of violence and cruelty that are designed not only to kill but to terrorize and destroy the basis of community life. Neighbor-on-neighbor violence is characteristic of this form of aggression as seemingly peaceful community members are swept up in the inexorable process of killing. Thus, human suffering at a communal level is a shared feature of contemporary conflict. Yet, with the exception of the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals, there have been no international mechanisms for accountability until the recent ad hoc criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Drawing on the Latin American context, international criminal trials have become a significant response to mass violence, and this trend is strengthened as the International Criminal Court ("ICC") comes closer to a creation. Thus, the predominant mechanism to respond to mass violence focuses on individual perpetrators of war crimes and other serious violations of international law. Frequently, advocates for this model suggest that international trials may be the single most appropriate response to communal violence. While transitional justice scholars recognize that judicial and truth-seeking mechanisms constitute one important component of a response to mass violence, events of the last decade suggest that many diplomats and human rights advocates conceive of international criminal trials as the centerpiece of social repair. Indeed, "social reconciliation" has become a mandate of these proceedings. While international trials are laudable, assigning accountability for mass atrocities to individuals has certain limitations. This article explores certain of these limitations and offers a new model to understand the contribution of trials to social...
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Little is known about the impact of trauma in postconflict, low-income countries where people have survived multiple traumatic experiences. To establish the prevalence rates of and risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 4 postconflict, low-income countries. Epidemiological survey conducted between 1997 and 1999 among survivors of war or mass violence (aged >/=16 years) who were randomly selected from community populations in Algeria (n = 653), Cambodia (n = 610), Ethiopia (n = 1200), and Gaza (n = 585). Prevalence rates of PTSD, assessed using the PTSD module of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 2.1 and evaluated in relation to traumatic events, assessed using an adapted version of the Life Events and Social History Questionnaire. The prevalence rate of assessed PTSD was 37.4% in Algeria, 28.4% in Cambodia, 15.8% in Ethiopia, and 17.8% in Gaza. Conflict-related trauma after age 12 years was the only risk factor for PTSD that was present in all 4 samples. Torture was a risk factor in all samples except Cambodia. Psychiatric history and current illness were risk factors in Cambodia (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 3.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.3-5.4 and adjusted OR,1.6; 95% CI, 1.0-2.7, respectively) and Ethiopia (adjusted OR, 3.9; 95% CI, 2.0-7.4 and adjusted OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1-2.7, respectively). Poor quality of camp was associated with PTSD in Algeria (adjusted OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.3-2.5) and in Gaza (adjusted OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.8). Daily hassles were associated with PTSD in Algeria (adjusted OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.4). Youth domestic stress, death or separation in the family, and alcohol abuse in parents were associated with PTSD in Cambodia (adjusted OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.6; adjusted OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.0-2.8; and adjusted OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.1-4.4, respectively). Using the same assessment methods, a wide range of rates of symptoms of PTSD were found among 4 low-income populations who have experienced war, conflict, or mass violence. We identified specific patterns of risk factors per country. Our findings indicate the importance of contextual differences in the study of traumatic stress and human rights violations.
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Research on subjective punishment goals has focused on the perspective of third-party observers of criminal offenses and neglected the perspective of victims. This study investigates punishment goals among 174 adult crime victims (rape and nonsexual assault) for each participant's real criminal case. Scales measuring support for punishment goals are constructed by factor analysis of an 18-item list. Results show that 5 highly supported goals can be distinguished: retaliation, recognition of victim status, confirmation of societal values, victim security, and societal security. Analysis of relations between punishment goal scales and personal variables, situational variables, and demanded punishment severity corroborates the view that the punishment goals revealed can be classified according to the two independent dichotomies of moral versus instrumental goals, and micro versus macro goals.
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Truth commissions have become key mechanisms in transitional justice schemes in post conflict societies in order to assure transitions to peace, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. However, few studies examine what must happen to ensure that the transition process initiated by a truth commission successfully continues after the commission concludes its truth-gathering work and submits its final report. This article argues that while attention often focuses on prosecutions and institutional reforms, reparations also play a critical role. The authors share their observations of how government agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), civil society sectors and victim-survivor's associations struggle over reparations in post truth commission Peru, offering a preliminary analysis of key theoretical suppositions about transitional justice: they explore whether the act of telling the truth to an official body is something that helps or hinders a victim-survivor in his or her own recovery process, and whether in giving testimonies victim-survivors place particular demands upon the state. The authors conclude that while testimony giving may possibly have temporary cathartic effects, it must be followed by concrete actions. Truth tellers make an implicit contract with their interlocutors to respond through acknowledgement and redress.
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One major goal of face-to-face restorative justice (RJ) is to help heal the psychological harm suffered by crime victims (Braithwaite, 2002). Substantial evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) has shown that this can be accomplished (Strang, 2002) and more trials are underway (Sherman & Strang, 2004). These outcomes are even more clearly, if less rigorously, demonstrated through retrospective interviews of victims about their feelings before and after RJ took place. We review the responses of victims (N= 210) who participated in trials in Canberra (Australia) and in London, Thames Valley, and Northumbria (UK). Despite substantial variations in offense types, social contexts, nation and race, before-after changes revealed by qualitative and quantitative data are all in the same beneficial direction.
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It is commonly accepted that war crimes trials should provide a space for victims to tell their stories. A close reading of the transcripts of victim-witnesses’ testimonies in the Krstic trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia suggests, however, that war crimes trials effectively silence, rather than hear, victims. In this particular trial, victim-witnesses predictably governed neither the agenda nor the pace of the hearings. More problematically, we argue that incongruously optimistic judicial remarks unnecessarily denied their suffering. On a different plane, victims’ testimonies were only vaguely connected to the person of the accused; they related to facts the relevance and proof of which are debatable. This article aims to generate a debate about victim-witnesses’ testimonies at war crimes trials. It seeks to identify both the demands that the legal process imposes on victim-witnesses and the tensions that arise out of their participation in it. In the light of the fact that legal proceedings cannot produce the definitive collective memory of the events with which they deal, the article finally stresses the need to foster a variety of collective memories outside the judicial platform. Silence: v.... 1 . Trans. To cause or compel (a person) to cease speaking... Shorter Oxford English Dictionary Hearing:... 2. The action of listening... 3. The listening to evidence and pleadings in a court of law... Shorter Oxford English Dictionary I hope your father will come back. (Judge Riad to Mr Husic, who testified in the Krstic trial)
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Countries going through democratic transition have to address how they will deal with the human rights crimes committed during the authoritarian era. In the context of amnesty for perpetrators, truth commissions have emerged as a standard institution to document the violent past. Increasingly, claims are made that truth commissions have beneficial psychological consequences; that is, that they facilitate 'catharsis', or 'heal the nation', or allow the nation to 'work through' a violent past. This article draws upon trauma counseling experience and anthropological fieldwork among survivors to challenge these claims in the context of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It argues that nations are not like individuals in that they do not have collective psyches, that nation-building discourses on reconciliation often subordinate individual needs, and that truth commissions and individual processes of healing work on different time lines. Calls for reconciliation from national leaders may demand too much psychologically from survivors, and retribution may be just as effective as reconciliation at creating symbolic closure.
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The impact on individual survivors of human rights abuses of testifying before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has not been established. To examine the degree to which participation in the TRC is related to current psychiatric status and forgiveness among survivors. Survivors (n=134) who gave public, closed or no testimony to the TRC completed instruments measuring exposure to human rights abuses, exposure to other traumatic events, current psychiatric status and forgiveness attitudes towards the perpetrator(s). There was no significant association between TRC participation and current psychiatric status or current forgiveness attitudes, and low forgiveness was associated with poorer psychiatric health. Truth commissions should form part of, rather than be a substitute for, comprehensive therapeutic interventions for survivors of human rights abuses. Lack of forgiveness may be an important predictor of psychiatric risk in this population.
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Although impunity for those responsible for trauma is widely thought to be associated with psychological problems in survivors of political violence, no study has yet investigated this issue. To examine the mental health and cognitive effects of war trauma and how appraisal of redress for trauma and beliefs about justice, safety, other people, war cause, and religion relate to posttraumatic stress responses in war survivors. A cross-sectional survey conducted between March 2000 and July 2002 with a population-based sample of 1358 war survivors who had experienced at least 1 war-related stressor (combat, torture, internal displacement, refugee experience, siege, and/or aerial bombardment) from 4 sites in former Yugoslavia, accessed through linkage sampling. Control groups at 2 study sites were matched with survivors on sex, age, and education. Semi-structured Interview for Survivors of War, Redress for Trauma Survivors Questionnaire, Emotions and Beliefs After War questionnaire, Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). The mean (SD) age was 39 (12) years, 806 (59%) were men, and 339 (25%) had high school or higher level of education. Participants reported experiencing a mean of 12.6 war-related events, with 292 (22%) and 451 (33%) having current and lifetime posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), respectively, and 129 (10%) with current major depression. A total of 1074 (79%) of the survivors reported a sense of injustice in relation to perceived lack of redress for trauma. Perceived impunity for those held responsible for trauma was only one of the factors associated with sense of injustice. Relative to controls, survivors had stronger emotional responses to impunity, greater fear and loss of control over life, less belief in benevolence of people, greater loss of meaning in war cause, stronger faith in God, and higher rates of PTSD and depression. Fear and loss of control over life were associated with PTSD and depression (odds ratio [OR], 2.91; 95% CI, 2.27-3.74 and OR, 2.30; 95% CI, 1.75-3.03, respectively), and emotional responses to impunity showed a relatively weaker association with PTSD (OR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.16-2.02) and depression (OR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.02-1.91). Appraisal of redress for trauma was not associated with PTSD or depression. PTSD and depression in war survivors appear to be independent of sense of injustice arising from perceived lack of redress for trauma. Fear of threat to safety and loss of control over life appeared to be the most important mediating factors in PTSD and depression. These findings may have important implications for reconciliation efforts in postwar countries and effective interventions for traumatized war survivors.
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Based on the available literature, this review article investigates the issue of resilience in relation to trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder. Resilient coping to extreme stress and trauma is a multifaceted phenomena characterized as a complex repertoire of behavioral tendencies. An integrative Person x Situation model is developed based on the literature that specifies the nature of interactions among five classes of variables: (a) personality, (b) affect regulation, (c) coping, (d) ego defenses, and (e) the utilization and mobilization of protective factors and resources to aid coping.
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The reconstruction and maintenance of peaceful communities in the aftermath of conflicts is one of the most critical areas of concern for both policymakers and scholars. This article examines explanations of the level of societal peace - the degree of conflict and/or cooperation in a society - and the extent to which internationally provided justice contributes to the maintenance of peaceful societies. In particular, it investigates the efforts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to provide justice for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina by analyzing the impact of the arrests and judgments of war criminals on societal peace in Bosnia. Some research suggests that internationally provided justice is critical to peace and reconciliation; some scholars argue that such attempts can do more harm than good by inflaming ethnic violence; while still other research contends that its effects are limited at best. Using event data from the Kansas Event Data System, it is found that the arrests and judgments of war criminals had only a limited effect on improving relations among Bosnia’s ethnic groups. Mostly, the apprehension and judgments of suspected war criminals had no statistically significant effect.
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This research contributes to the expanding literature on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) by focusing on the experiences of victims/survivors who participated in the TRC process. Lengthy semistructured interviews were held with 30 Black South African victims who engaged the TRC process. Qualitative analysis indicated that a small number of those interviewed viewed it as a positive and empowering experience, although for many others it appeared to be a painful and disempowering process filled with unmet expectations and promises. Discussion of the implications of survivors’ responses emerging from the thematic analysis and suggestions for improving future policies pertaining to survivors’ participation in such TRC mechanisms are offered. The importance of considering the cultural applicability and adaptability of terms such as "amnesty," used in transitional justice scenarios, is also highlighted.
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This paper provides an overview of recent developments in the literature on post-traumatic stress disorder. Epidemiological studies indicate that approximately 15-25% of individuals experiencing a significant trauma will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, although approximately half will recover without formal intervention. Potential vulnerability factors for post-traumatic stress disorder have been identified, but the mechanisms and complexities require further exploration, with recent research suggesting that prevalence rates and risk factors may differ across populations. Studies of psychological treatment have demonstrated prolonged exposure and cognitive therapies to be equally beneficial, whereas eye movement desensitization and reprocessing may be useful but perhaps less effective in the long term. Pharmacological treatment studies indicate that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be the first choice of drug treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. Non-selective primary prevention strategies remain contentious, although secondary prevention, in the form of cognitive behavioural interventions for acutely symptomatic survivors, appears to reduce the subsequent development of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Article
Since the 1980s, states have been increasingly addressing past human rights violations using multiple transitional justice mechanisms including domestic and international human rights trials. In the mid-1980s, scholars of transitions to democracy generally concluded that trials for past human rights violations were politically untenable and likely to undermine new democracies. More recently, some international relations experts have echoed the pessimistic claims of the early `trial skeptics' and added new concerns about the impact of trials. Yet, relatively little multicountry empirical work has been done to test such claims, in part because no database on trials was available. The authors have created a new dataset of two main transitional justice mechanisms: truth commissions and trials for past human rights violations. With the new data, they document the emergence and dramatic growth of the use of truth commissions and domestic, foreign, and international human rights trials in the world. The authors then explore the impact that human rights trials have on human rights, conflict, democracy, and rule of law in Latin America. Their analysis suggests that the pessimistic claims of skeptics that human rights trials threaten democracy, increase human rights violations, and exacerbate conflict are not supported by empirical evidence from Latin America.
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Theorists of transitional justice study the transition measures used, or eschewed, by new democracies that succeed communist or authoritarian regimes - measures including trials, purges, lustration, reparations, and truth commissions. The theorists tend to oppose transitional measures, portraying them as illiberal and as a distraction from the task of consolidating new democracies. In this Article we argue against that view. The critics of transitional justice have gone wrong by overlooking that transitional measures are common in consolidated legal systems, which themselves constantly undergo political and economic shocks resulting in transitions of greater or lesser degree. Ordinary justice has developed a range of pragmatic tools for managing transitions. Consolidated democracies use trials, purges and reparations to accomplish valuable forward-looking goals without allowing illiberal repression; new democracies can and should use those tools also. Because transitional justice is continuous with ordinary justice, there is no reason to treat transitional-justice measures as presumptively suspect, on either moral or institutional grounds.
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Programmes costing millions of dollars to address 'posttraumatic stress' in war zones have been increasingly prominent in humanitarian aid operations, backed by UNICEF, WHO, European Community Humanitarian Office and many nongovernmental organisations. The assumptions underpinning this work, which this paper critiques with particular reference to Bosnia and Rwanda, reflect a globalisation of Western cultural trends towards the medicalisation of distress and the rise of psychological therapies. This paper argues that for the vast majority of survivors posttraumatic stress is a pseudocondition, a reframing of the understandable suffering of war as a technical problem to which short-term technical solutions like counselling are applicable. These concepts aggrandise the Western agencies and their 'experts' who from afar define the condition and bring the cure. There is no evidence that war-affected populations are seeking these imported approaches, which appear to ignore their own traditions, meaning systems, and active priorities. One basic question in humanitarian operations is: whose knowledge is privileged and who has the power to define the problem? What is fundamental is the role of a social world, invariably targeted in today's 'total' war and yet still embodying the collective capacity of survivor populations to mourn, endure and rebuild.
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This article presents the first empirically based analysis of how judicial proceedings against perpetrators of human rights violations – criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits – psychologically affect victims of those abuses. Policymakers, activists, and scholars frequently advance explicit or implicit claims about this impact, but generally offer no evidence to support them; at most, they provide a few anecdotes. This article combines insights from original interviews with therapists and lawyers with primary evidence from a comprehensive survey of published literature from social science research to personal memoirs. The article begins by summarizing psychological literature on how human rights violations themselves affect victims. It then examines the impact of trials, presenting a typology of ten psychological dynamics that connect particular aspects of process or outcomes with changes in victims’ psychology. Some dynamics are psychologically beneficial, while others are harmful. Although the empirical record is insufficient to draw conclusions about the relative significance of the dynamics or the prevalence of any, it is clear that the impact of trials varies tremendously from victim to victim. The article concludes by recommending (1) a de-emphasis of judicial processes in favor of other methods for healing the psychological damage wrought by human rights violations, (2) greater attention by courts to victims’ psychological needs, and (3) systematic research on the psychological impact of trials, including testing the dynamics identified in this article. Note: Since the publication of this article, a few new studies of the impact of trials on victims have appeared. Eric Stover’s The Witnesses: War Crimes and the Promise of Justice in the Hague (2005) and David Mendeloff’s “Trauma and Vengeance: Assessing the Psychological and Emotional Effects of Post-Conflict Justice” (Human Rights Quarterly, 2009) are among the most valuable.
Article
Torture is a complex trauma that often occurs within the context of widespread persecution and human rights violations. In addition, the nature of modern warfare is such that whole populations are at risk of suffering extensive trauma, injustices, loss, and displacement. Refugees, in particular, experience sequential stresses that may compound each other over prolonged periods of time. The present overview examines whether contemporary notions of trauma, and especially a focus on the category of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are adequate in assessing the multiple effects of such experiences. Recent studies are reviewed to indicate the strengths and limitations of current research approaches. Rates of PTSD in such studies have varied with relatively low rates being found in recent epidemiologic studies undertaken on refugee populations. It is suggested that a focus on intervening psychosocial adaptive systems may assist in delineating more clearly the pathways that determine whether traumatized persons achieve psychosocial restitution or are at risk of ongoing psychiatric disability. A model is proposed which suggests that torture and related abuses may challenge five core adaptive systems subserving the functions of "safety," "attachment," "justice," "identity-role," and "existential-meaning." It is argued that a clearer delineation of such adaptive systems may provide a point of convergence that may link research endeavors more closely to the subjective experience of survivors and to the types of clinical interventions offered by trauma treatment services.
Article
In the aftermath of crime, victims must decide whether to seek justice. An encounter with the legal system offers major potential benefits to crime victims, but also exposes them to significant risks. Victims who file civil or criminal complaints are subject to the rules and procedures of a complex legal system, where their mental health and safety may be of marginal concern, and where the potential for retraumatization may be high. This paper reviews the social and psychological barriers that discourage victim participation in the legal system, and existing studies that document the impact of participation on victims' mental health. Prospective longitudinal research focusing on victims in the legal system is recommended.
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The purpose of this study was to examine risk and protective factors of postwar adjustment among adolescents from Sarajevo who have been exposed to war traumas during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. More specifically, we wanted to examine differential linkages between Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms and depression (as outcomes) and (a) war traumas, (b) individual and socioenvironmental factors, and (c) cognitive appraisals and coping mechanisms. Results of hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicate that dimensions of war traumas, individual characteristics, and cognitive appraisals and coping mechanisms play a significant role in determining who will have more serious PTSD symptoms. Although individual and socioenvironmental factors are the strongest predictors of depression, dimensions of war traumas also are significantly correlated with depressive symptoms. Common risk factors for more serious depression and PTSD symptoms in postwar adjustment were female gender and low optimism. While the strongest predictor of posttraumatic stress reactions (PTSR) was trauma experience in the category of loss, the strongest predictor of depressive symptoms was female gender.