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Reparations After Conflict & Dictatorship: The Challenges Of Promising ‘Never Again’

(112 reviews)

Produced on December 11, 2017

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Course Information

Time 1h 30m
Difficulty Intermediate
Topics covered in this course: International Civil Rights

Course Description

Countries and societies emerging from armed conflict, dictatorship or periods of widespread and violent social and political conflict often face dilemmas over how to pursue peace and reconciliation without setting aside justice and accountability. In some of these countries – such as South Africa, Argentina, the former East Timor, Liberia, Canada and more recently, Nepal and Tunisia -- what has come to be known within the international human rights movement as “transitional justice” has been applied to pursue peace, justice, accountability and perhaps reconciliation. The most prominent example of a transitional justice institution is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa. But there are other institutions and processes, including truth commissions in Morocco, Kenya and Liberia, the war crimes tribunals in Sierra Leone and Cambodia or the reparations program in the Philippines and Peru for victims of dictatorships, that show both the possibilities and limits of transitional justice. 

Of these different transitional justice measures, reparations for victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations are one of the most complicated measures to design and implement. Legislating, adjudicating or even implementing reparations can get complicated because of the legal and political implications that taking responsibility implies. In the United States, the idea of reparations as a response to past injustices is not unfamiliar: reparations were given, for example, to Japanese-Americans ‘interned’ during World War II. Yet it is also contentious, as exemplified by debates over reparations for slavery. Outside the US, the legal and practical debates over whether and how reparations can be made can be just as complex, involving overlaps between international legal obligations and national law and its intersection with development and social justice policies. In all of these settings, the basic question is almost always the same: how can reparations be made so that those that receive them get a sense that justice is being done?

Ruben Carranza is a human rights lawyer who currently heads the Reparative Justice Program at the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). In his work with ICTJ, he has helped address legal, policy and practical issues involving reparations in various countries  and regions emerging from conflict or dictatorship, including in sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya, South Africa, Liberia, Uganda), North Africa and the Middle East (Iraq, Palestine, Tunisia and Libya), Asia and the Pacific (Nepal, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, the Solomon Islands) and Latin America (Peru, Colombia). He has provided advice to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia and has assisted various United Nations missions including more recently UN missions in Libya and the Central African Republic (CAR). Before joining ICTJ he was the Philippines government commissioner in-charge of investigating and prosecuting the family of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos for corruption and human rights violations. He is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law and was a Global Public Service Lawyering Fellow at New York University Law School, where he acquired his LL.M. in 2005.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Introduce participants to the field of transitional justice, the role of reparations programs in that field, and how such programs have been implemented in many post-conflict and post-dictatorship countries
  2. Identify the basic international human rights and humanitarian law principles and legal instruments that should guide reparations policymaking and implementation
  3. Provide participants with examples from the field and practice of reparations that illustrate some of the key dilemmas and challenges involved

Credit Information

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Ruben Carranza

International Center for Transitional Justice

Ruben Carranza is from the Philippines. He obtained his B.A. and LL.B. degrees from the University of the Philippines and an LL.M. from New York University (NYU) in 2005 as a Global Public Service Law Program scholar.

He currently works with victims’ communities and reparations policymakers in Nepal, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iraq, Palestine, Liberia, Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya. He also provides advice on issues involving reparations and war crimes tribunals including the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

From 2001–2004, he was the commissioner in charge of litigation and investigation in the Philippine commission that successfully recovered $680 Million in ill-gotten assets of the family of Ferdinand Marcos hidden in banks in Switzerland, the U.S. and other foreign countries. He concurrently served in the UN Ad Hoc Committee that drafted the 2003 UN Convention Against Corruption. He was involved in litigation against the Marcos family filed in the U.S. by victims of human rights violations of the Marcos dictatorship based on the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). He worked with civil society on proposed reparations measures for victims of the Marcos dictatorship and counseled families of the disappeared, former political detainees and other victims groups.

From 1998–2000, he was an assistant secretary of national defense in the Philippines, where he developed his expertise in security, peacebuilding and conflict issues in Asia, including those involving China, Japan and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He has done significant research, writing and field work on the relationship among transitional justice, corruption, and economic crimes.


Roberta B.

Really excellent information and presentation

Neelam N.

Great presentation, particularly about the US!

Nadia M.

A powerful and thought provoking course taught by a gifted instructor - thank you.

Jeanne N.

What an incredibly great program! so knowledgeable as a presenter, so calm and fair, but raising very serious points; super great film snippets help understanding.

kristine b.

Great job — informative, clear, interesting and relevant.

Grant H.

Great course

Ann P.


Kristine P.

very interesting. appreciated the topic and presenter.

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