On Demand

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

1h 30m

Created on December 11, 2017




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

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