Transitional justice refers to the processes and reforms that States implement in response to systemic human rights violations. Transitional justice measures of reform have included criminal prosecutions, reparations, institutional reform, memorialization, and truth commissions. The purpose behind these measures is to “guarantee that the violations will not recur, and therefore, a special duty to reform institutions that were either involved in or incapable of preventing the abuses”. History has a tendency to repeat itself, including the horrible atrocities of massive human rights violations including rape, murder, genocide, slavery, imprisonment, child soldiers, etc. Leaving these violations unaddressed breads mistrust and “hampers the achievement of security and development goals.. and raises questions about the commitment to the rule of law and, ultimately, can lead to cyclical recurrence of violence in various forms”. It is therefore critical of the State to implement the various measures transitional justice.
There are many issues surrounding the implementation of transitional justice. The issue with various silences has created issue with holding those in power accountable for their actions. In the documentary from this weeks lecture discussed victim silences can play a critical role in evidence. Consider the position victims of sexual abuse, torture, rape, and beatings in Uganda were faced with. When the ICC began their investigation to bring charges against LRA commanders like Joseph Kony, many fear repercussion for themselves and their family if they spoke up. Their State government has never been able to effectively implement and measures of protection, therefore many victims felt it was of great risk to speak of the horrors they had experienced. Other issues associated with transitional justice measures include lack of resources to implement measures of justice in the form of financial inability, corruption of government officials, and lack of State military force.
In same documentary titled “The Reckoning: The Battle for the ICC” we learned of the transitional justice measures made in Colombia by president Alvaro Uribe that drew attention from the ICC for the lack luster response from the State to protect it’s citizens from internal conflict including FARC and paramilitary groups. Mass violence between the two groups (and much smaller rebel groups) have accounted for over 5.5 million victims in the past 5 decades “roughly 13% of the country’s population. The conflict also contributed conflict has generated “the forced displacement of millions of people, more than 200,000 killed, thousands of cases of forced disappearances, sexual crimes and gender-based violence, and the forced recruitment of minors”. The measures of transitional justice enacted by President were as follows:
- 2003 Demobilization of more than 35,000 members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
- 2005– Law 975 was enacted to facilitate the reincorporation of these demobilized former combatants into civilian life, giving rise to the Justice and Peace process. This law contemplates a special prosecution model that includes alternative sentencing for those demobilized former AUC that contribute to clarification of the truth and reparations to victims”
- Many victims and NGO leaders felt that this measure for justice was far to lenient and criticized that members of the paramilitary groups continued to commit human rights violations.
- In 2010 – Law 1424, which established a non-judicial truth-seeking mechanism that provides legal benefits to members of illegal organized armed groups in exchange for agreeing to contribute to clarification of the truth about the conflict.
- 2010 Law 1448, or Victims’ Law, which established a comprehensive reparations program and land restitution procedure.
- 2010, President Santos began discrete exploratory contacts with the FARC aimed at finding a negotiated solution to the armed conflict engaging in Peace talks vs. fighting guerilla warfare that had plagued the county for over 50 years.
These various measures of transitional justice in Colombia show promise that the country is moving in the right direction (with a little nudge from the “over the shoulder” effect of the ICC” to have the State take the necessary initiative to promote justice in response to the atrocities that country has faced over the past 50 years. While the measurements of justice continue to evolve and have room for improvement, I think the situation in Colombia is an example of how transitional justice is an evolutionary process to achieve justice.