International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Colombia: Reparations as Justice

For those of you interested in Colombia and/or reparations, there is an interesting new video and multimedia project, called for Voices of Dignity, available from the International Center for Transitional Justice. The ICTJ describes the project as follows:

Where states commit widespread and systematic crimes against their citizens, or fail to seriously try to prevent them, they have a legal obligation to acknowledge and address the suffering of victims. Reparations, both symbolic and material, publicly affirm that victims are entitled to redress. Through video and three photogalleries, ICTJ’s multimedia project Voices of Dignity tells the story of two courageous women from Colombia, and their struggle for acknowledgement and redress in a country where more than four million people have been affected by decades of civil war.

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2 responses to “Colombia: Reparations as Justice

  1. sarahupp14 December 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    This video opened my eyes to a broader conception of reparations and the right to truth—and the intrinsic link between them. For me personally, the concept of reparations that Yoladis and Petronila put forth at first challenged my traditional understanding of reparations as tangible compensation to the victims of a past wrongdoing. I have to agree, though, that their definition of a successful reparations program is what is best suited to the situation in Colombia—and in many an instance in which transitional justice is needed. For an impoverished nation deeply entrenched in a vicious cycle of war, the issuing of monetary reparations may not be feasible, and reparations in the form of truth telling and name clearing may very well be more effective in providing justice and closure. Most importantly, as the video makes clear, the only valid form of reparation is that which the victims themselves genuinely view as valid.

    The Colombian government’s Victims Law is certainly a step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen whether or not the program will meet the actual needs and expectations of victims. Beyond this, a program that retroactively tries to make amends with those caught in the crossfire of the armed conflict is not going to move the country towards lasting peace. In order to reach a truly sustainable peace, the government needs to address the greater “structural violence” that is allowing the aforementioned cycle of war to perpetuate itself. This, of course, calls into question the ever-recurring tension between peace and justice and the prioritization of immediate safety versus long-term stability. After decades of inadequate response to the violence—physical and structural—that has been ravaging its country, the Colombian government now faces a most challenging policy dilemma…and the clock is ticking. As the death toll rises and more mothers and children are left without husbands, fathers, and brothers, not only do reparations become more important, but the need for the prevention of further escalation of the conflict becomes all the more pressing as well.

  2. kquinteroh December 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I agree with the Sarah’s post pointing out that it seems almost incomprehensible as to why Yolandis and Petronila are demanding what appears to be so little from the Colombian government. One part that was particularly interesting to me was when one of them says that clearing her husband’s name is one of the most important things that she would like to see happening out of this process. It seems that victims of the armed conflict, especially those that end up displaced to larger cities, face allot of discrimination for their status. Various NGO reports show that they are stigmatized as being carriers of the armed conflict or as having been involved in someway with the guerrilla or the paras. This can make the whole process of restarting their lives after these tragedies even more difficult.

    During the length of the video she says that through the process of acknowledgement, she would like to see the education of the country about the armed conflict and the experiences of its victims. I think it is because of the conflict’s long duration and because in the recent years most of the violence has been concentrated more so in rural areas, urban inhabitants have certain opinions that neglect the experiences of those of the people that have been directly affected by the violence. In this way, the process of truth telling has much at stake for victims and for the nation at large. Especially because the promise of peace through negotiations has been frustrated in the past and settlements seem even further away, an increased level of national awareness through acknowledgement would give victims some sense of justice until further accountability can take place.

    Below is a video detailing the rough conditions many displaced people find themselves in once they moved to Bogota to start a new life and the discrimination and marginalization they face:

    http://unhcr.org/v-4b260d656

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