International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: reparations

Colombian Peace Deal: Truly Victim Centric?

Monday evening, September 26th Farc leader, Rodrigo Londono (aka. Timochenko) apologized to victims of the armed conflict in Colombia during the signing of the new peace deal. The history of the conflict in Colombia stems from the Cold War. The major players involved in signing the peace deal were the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) – the predominant rebel guerrilla group in the country – and the Colombian government. The group has existed since 1964 and represents the armed wing of the Communist party. Their primary technique in war has been guerrilla warfare in rural areas.

2012 initiated the start of public peace talks in Havana which have culminated in the peace deal established yesterday evening. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the very ceremonious occasion. All dignitaries in attendance were dressed in white to symbolize peace. A pen constructed from a bullet was used to further exemplify the aspirations for peace behind the deal. Timochenko assured Colombia and the world that his group would be hanging up their guns for good and even asked for forgiveness in his apology to the victims of his crimes. Serious questions remain about the practicality of a new peace in democracy without holding the perpetrators legally accountable.screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-2-19-32-pm

The deal prescribes political party status for the Farc meaning that the now former rebel group will take part in the 2018 legislative elections. In accordance with the deal, the group will be afforded a minimum of ten seats in the legislature for the first two Congressional sessions. There exists a faction within Colombia that remain distrustful of the Farc and are angry that members of the rebel force will be allowed to participate in Congress without first serving jail time for their crimes.


In an interview with BBC President Manuel Santos notes that the peace process has been centered around the needs of the eight million victims created by the 50 year war. The interviewer notes that two former Colombian presidents denounce the deal as “virtual amnesty”. Santos insists that impunity does not exist. He continues that the process has involved truth and reparations on an unprecedented scale to work to amend the wrongdoing. Santos describes the mentality of the negotiations on his part which insisted on “maximum justice that will allow us peace” (Santos, 2016). The next phase will be the most difficult in terms of reconstructing the culture, values, and social network of Colombia. Santos admits that the process will not be easy and may take many years; however, he appears optimistic for the countries future and proud of the restorative work his government has initiated. 


German Reparations to Greece – Justice?


During the German occupation of Greece, more than 20,000 people were killed, around 250,000 died from starvation, and many Greek villages were destroyed. Greece is now demanding monetary reparations from Germany of up to €278.7 bn for crimes committed during the Nazi regime.

Some Germans agree that Greece is owed the money; citing the longer memory of victims and their descendants, while others simply call demands for the reparations “stupid”. A German couple, frustrated over their governments lack of response, hand delivered €875 to a town hall in what they had calculated was due from each German for war reparations.

Germany recently bailed out Greece due to their tough economic situation, and as a result views the demand for more money as unnecessary. While some agree that Greece deserves these reparations, how much of this is truly about justice? It seems that Greece is piggybacking on the institution of justice to obtain money. Are monetary reparations the best solution when it risks tainting justice by abusing its license to obtain reparations? How can a line be drawn for when “justice” is used correctly or incorrectly? Is there a solution that could better help the German people? I am curious as to what other people think about the “correctness” of Greece’s claim, and if the somewhat righteous facade should be overlooked if it holds a claim to true “justice”.

Edmonton: A year of reconciliation

This week marks the one year anniversary since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded in Edmonton.This commission was set up over 5 years ago in order to investigate what happened in the residential schools that were set up to “eliminate parental involvement  in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of Aboriginal children” across Canada. Following the truth commission, Mayor Don Iveson declared the first year following the commission as the “year of reconciliation”. In its efforts towards reconciliation the city of Edmonton set  three goals in order to improve relations with indigenous residents. One of its goals included creating more spaces for the celebration of aboriginal culture. By creating such spaces the government is ensuring that the aboriginal population in Edmonton has access to their culture and their identity. It allows for children to connect with their aboriginal heritage and furthermore it allows for the indigenous people to do cultural awareness training. This is important in achieving reconciliation because the residential schools significantly damaged the indigenous culture’s development, so by doing this it is a form of reparation for the damages done. Specifically in Edmonton, the government is working with indigenous people in order to build a sweat lodge. A sweat lodge is a place in which people can pray, meditate, teach or even host community gatherings. In helping build this type of space the government is acknowledging the victims due to the nature and purpose of the structure. As we discussed in class, truth commissions, more specifically the recommendations can bring about reparations to the victims and families through the elicited responses and actions after the release of the report. Luckily in the Canadian case, the findings of the commission have been well received and the government in conjunction with the indigenous community have worked together towards reconciliation by not only memorializing the past but also looking forward in sustaining and promoting aboriginal culture of the future.

Does Age Matter?

AKM Yusuf, one of the top leaders of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami died February 9th. Yusuf was indicted May 12th, 2013 on 15 war crimes charges by the UN supported International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh set up in 2009 to investigate the crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh’s war against Pakistan in 1971. According to a report entitled “A Country Full of Corpses,” published in 1971: “The extermination of the Jewish people by the Nazi regime, the atomic crisis of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the massacre of Biafra, the napalm on Vietnam, all the great genocides of humanity have found a new equivalent: East Pakistan.” The tribunal was initially well received, but has since been accused of problems with fairness and transparency. Despite the problems with the trial, Yusuf’s part in the genocide has not been called into question. Recently his defense team argued that he should be granted bail immediately because of his age. Should the age of the defendant be taken into account? Should the year the crimes were committed in be taken into account? As we saw in the Khmer Rouge trials one of the defendants was acquitted because she had Alzheimer’s and wasn’t coherent enough to stand trial. Do victims receive justice if the defendant is 80+ years of age, sentenced to 40 years in prison, goes to jail for a year and then dies? I think that Yusuf’s death is just another example of the importance of alternative forms of justice, such as truth commissions and reparations. 


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.

Increased Reparations to Holocaust Survivors

After negotiations between the German government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, Germany has decided to increase reparation payments to Holocaust survivors and will also open up reparation eligibility to a greater number of people. The Conference has been working for decades “to achieve recognition of Holocaust survivors who have remained in the countries of the former Soviet Union.” The eligibility of reparations will be opened up to individuals who were persecuted by Nazis in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, because many of them still have not received it. About 80,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union who still live in Eastern Europe and have never gotten any compensation from Germany will receive reparations. $200 million will be evenly distributed against tens of thousands of elderly survivors. Additionally, there will be increased allocations for home care for Holocaust survivors. While this is a great breakthrough for survivors who have been waiting years for compensation, this article brings up an issue I have with reparations that was addressed by Joanna. She stated, “Collective reparations don’t address the individual pain felt by the affected persons,” and they “don’t seem to distinguish among the very different abuses perpetrated against individuals.” These are my sentiments exactly. Though the increase in reparations to the Holocaust is undoubtedly an appreciable move, it seems almost too easy to just equalize the compensation to survivors.

How Much Are Reparations Really Worth?

The above article describes some of the recent developments in the Lubanga trial, mainly raising the question of the value of reparations on the reconciliation process. It seems that the debate over the individual versus the collective has flared up again with regard to the nature of transitional justice. This situation is only exacerbated by the fact that the ICC is trying Lubanga thousands of miles away from where the child soliders perished fighting for his regime. While trials typically promote accountability, this one is different because the affected individuals are far removed from the process and there is little being done to engage them. Furthermore, the court’s insistence on collective reparations further dilutes the individualized reconciliation process. Collective reparations don’t address the individual pain felt by the affected persons. Furthermore, as noted in the article, collective reparations don’t seem to distinguish among the very different abuses perpetrated against individual; for example, they don’t address the pain of a child soldier versus the pain of a woman who was victim to sexual violence due to Lubanga.

The ICC’s inability to address individual concerns stems from its international nature; it has a unique place in the international system, a system marked by anarchy and the relations between states. While the ICC has the noble aim to propagate justice when the state is unable to fulfill its obligations to the right to truth and justice, it is at a disadvantage when it comes to reconciliation because it is so unfamiliar with the plight of the victims. Therefore, although it is sometimes necessary for the ICC to try those who have truly committed gross human rights violations, the reconciliation process should be referred to the local courts or to a truth commission; only they have a firsthand account of the individual’s needs in the context of society.

Justice Deferred? The Struggle of DRC Victims Post-Lubanga Trial to Receive Promised Reparations

Today published a commentary written by Olivia Bueno at the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) regarding a great deal of controversy surrounding the reparations relating to the trial of Thomas Lubanga, who received a 14-year sentence from the ICC for war crimes of enlisting, conscripting, and using child soldiers in the DRC.

It’s a fascinating piece, and certainly worth the read. I’ve also pulled out a few passages that I found particularly thought-provoking in terms of framing our discussion about restorative justice from Tuesday’s class. Particularly, I was struck by how I have been thinking about the effectiveness of the ICC based on those criminals it is able to apprehend and convict, but justice does not end with a verdict, especially not for the victims.

Click here to read the full article.

“In its decision, the trial chamber in the Lubanga case stated that victims should be awarded reparations and laid out principles for their application. However, the chamber did not make a decision regarding exactly what form these reparations should take. They decided that a proposal based on consultation with victims should be put together for approval by the Court. This left victims and the general public in Ituri with many questions, particularly about the form that reparations may take.”

“The Court has created enormous expectations on the part of many victims in Ituri and these expectations will be very difficult to meet.”

“They are talking about collective reparations. If you want to come and build a monument, that is fine, but don’t call it reparations.”

“These victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) are terrorized at home; constrained to remain silent by the notion that they should not undermine the honor of their community by denouncing violations committed against them by “their own.” Even if the Court has not been able to afford them the opportunity to express themselves openly, humanity should not ignore their suffering. That, she says, would be real injustice.”

“In fact, there is concern that a reparations program might even contribute to exacerbating tensions between some groups. “The Court says that reparations should not be discriminatory, but in practice the victims are more or less only Hema or Alur. What does this mean for victims who are Lendu or member of other groups?”

“They suggest a mode of reparations that address collective needs or which could be collectively used (such as a hospital serving a victim community) might be employed, rather than collective reparations that are merely symbolic (such as apologies or the construction of monuments or memorials).”

Reparations for Genocide Defendants

An interesting article I just read discussed reparations given to twenty-five OvaHerero and San households in Namibia for being the descendants of genocide victims. The families recently received cattle from the German Special Initiative Program through the National Planning Commission (NPC). Three cows were given to each of the households, who are descendants of OvaHerero/San/Nama people killed during the genocide committed by the German colonial army between 1904 and 1908. The cattle given were not supplied to the families permanently but were only given to them for three years so that they could reproduce calves that they could keep. After those three years, the program will collect the cattle and give them to other families on the beneficiary list. The councilor said the main purpose of rotating the cattle among beneficiaries is to improve the life of each and every descendant of the OvaHerero/San/Nama people killed during the 1904 to 1908 genocide.

This program seems almost laughable and reminds me of a question that Cohen discussed in his paper that asked, “At what point does justice delayed appear to the victims of mass atrocities as justice denied?” While it is admirable that these people respectable anything at all, I would say having to wait 100 years to see some type of justice is definitely justice denied.

ICTJ report on Nepal

The International Center for Transitional Justice’s article titled “In Nepal Victim’s Silence Cannot be Bought” is one of relevance to our discourse on transitional justice. Within this piece, the issue of the Nepal’s absence of a comprehensive repartitions program is of importance. While the Nepal government, in cooperation with the Maoist insurgents, developed with Interim Relief Program-which provides financial support to the conflicted victims- after six years there has still been no more developments. Questions of whether or not the Nepal government has confused the “issuance of relief through material benefits for the implementation of a comprehensive reparations program” have surfaced. Keeping this in mind, I cannot help to recall Bronwyn Leebaw’s piece on The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice.

In Bronwyn Leebaw’s The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice, she highlights several downfalls of transitional justice, claiming that “more attention should be given to ways in which efforts to expose, remember, and understand political violence are in tension with their roles as tools for establishing stability and legitimating transitional compromises.” Important in this dissection is the issue of efficiency. Moreover, is the assertion that “individual healing is often in tension with other transitional justice goals.” Accountability is a key element in transitional justice; one that the Nepal government has ignored in light of their financial expenditures. Through this, one can find that Leebaw’s claims are in fact vindicated. The sluggish pace of criminal prosecution and thus legal accountability, if any are in process, are not in sync with the inherent human feelings of revenge. Consequently, this ideological opposition, according to Leebaw, may lead to renewed violence….

Gender-specific Reparations

I just came across this article on al Jazeera, on Rape in South Africa. The main context of the article is a recent video of a rape that went viral, and then was eventually presented to the police. They discuss South Africa as the ‘Rape Capital of the World’ and announce the statistic that in South Africa a woman is raped every 26 seconds. They do a really good job in the article characterizing the issue of rape [in South Africa] as an unspoken ‘war’ with hundreds of unspoken victims, unseen by the justice system. 

There are also a lot of great videos included in the post; what I found had specific relevance to our class was the “1in9” video. It’s a video of a group of women protesting that Zuma was aquitted on a rape charge. They emphasize that they are remembering the woman who was exiled and all other rape survivors who have been “secondly victimized” by the courts. They emphasize that they are there because of an unrecognized justice claim. 

So here we see that the 1in9 protest is filling a symbolic function (remembering past victims) while attempting to get symbolic recognition of the controversy, and then eventually material recognition – the lifting of the exile. 

Since we’ve just been looking at the importance of gender-specific reparations, I felt this article on (largely) the state of women in South Africa post-Apartheid was a great reflection on the importance of reestablishing civic norms for everyone. Here we have a case of what seems to be large-scale human rights violations happening largely with impunity. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission undoubtedly set the standard, but did they do enough for acknowledging crimes of sexual violence? (And thus reestablishing the norm that it wasn’t acceptable to commit crimes of sexual violence, and giving effected women back civic agency?)

Lubanga’s convicted! So what now?

It is always easy to discuss the violent part of a crisis and even the legal proceedings which follow.  There exists a level of uncertainty that excites us that are so far removed from the actuality of the events.  Congo is one war torn country that has seen a major perpetrated brought to justice but despite the conviction of Thomas Lubanga there is no immediate revival of “normal” life within the Congo. 

The ICTJ released an article discussing the future for reparations for victim and reminding us that, “Article 75(I) of the Rome Statute requires the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “establish principles relating to reparations to, or in respect of, victims, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation” for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity”

The article is rather vague insofar as there is only so much precedent for the management of reparations and each country has a different set of cultural standards which make transitional justice so difficult.  That said I would like this post to open up thoughts on how the ICC should progress with regards to reparations in the Congo and how the Congolese government should reach out to the victim communities.  Naturally this topic can expand to the management of reparations as a whole.


U.S. pays ‘blood money’ to victims of Afghan massacre

So I’m sure you guys all heard of the shooting that happened in Afghanistan by an American solider a little over a week ago. The shooting killed 16 people including 9 children, 3 women, and 4 men. News broke out today that the U.S. is paying “blood money” to the victims of the massacre. The American official who delivered the money to the families said the money isn’t a compensation but an offering from the U.S government to help the victims and their families. The victims families/villagers got $50,000 for each of the people that dead and $11,000 for each of the people who were wounded. The U.S solider identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and other crimes, if convicted he could face the death penalty. The Afghan community is insisting that Bales be returned to Afghanistan to face trial, questioning the U.S. military’s account of what happened. What do you guys think about this whole thing?

UN court rules against Italy over WWII compensation

On Feb 3rd it was found by the UN’s International Court of Justices that Germany was legally immune from claims of slave labor by foreign courts. Due to the fact that Germany has paid reparations since th fifties. It found that the Italian Supreme court violated Germany’s sovereignty. The Italians courts argued that it was legal to make such statements against Germany because the war crimes show international precedence over state sovereignty. This court makes the final judgement and cannot be overturned.