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National Reconciliation

As a response to needs for healing and reconstructing societies after violent conflict, some Latin American countries have looked to processes similar to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as developing their own processes.

. Return within the bounds of the Pinheiro Principles: The Colombian land restitution experience.
In this Article, we argue that a successful program for land restitution and return for victims of forced displacement that obeys the Pinheiro Principles must take a comprehensive approach, or one that provides support programs for returning victims through centralized administration. We find that a minimalist restitution program, or one that simply provides a legal mechanism for obtaining restitution, is much less likely to succeed. In evaluating the likelihood of success, we consider whether the program will (1) adequately preserve victim choice while motivating victims to return, (2) provide for the fair and adequate administration of both restitution and return, and (3) enable returning victims to have more secure land tenure than when they were expelled Along each of these dimensions of concern to returning victims, we conclude that, to be successful, a policy must provide for centralized administration of all phases of restitution and return, including extensive victim support. Our evaluation of how public policy should implement the Pinheiro Principles is based on an analysis of the Victim's Law in Colombia in which we examine its approach to land restitution for victims of the Colombian armed conflict. Our analysis is grounded in the political, legal, and social background to land restitution in Colombia. The armed conflict in Colombia has lasted for over forty years and has left between three to five million displaced persons. Conditions in Colombia present both challenges and advantages for successful land restitution: challenges because displacement is still taking place in Colombia and advantages because the Constitutional Court has been a strong advocate for victims' rights. (author's abstract)
Barahona de Brito, Alexandra. Passion, Constraint, Law and Fortuna: The Human Rights Challenge to Chilean Democracy
Alexandra Barahona de Brito characterizes the Chilean response to past human rights violations under the regime of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte in terms of four qualities or aspects: passion; constraint; law; and fortuna. There has been a passion to uncover and confront the past, but this passion has been constrained by the political and constitutional setting and by caution about the balance of power in Chile. To some extent, approaches to reconciliation and democratization have obstructed, rather than reinforced, each other. At the same time, law (a rigid and codified factor) and fortuna (an unpredictable and uncontrollable phenomenon) have challenged the approach toward reconciliation and the forces of constraint. Law and fortuna have in turn led to a wider sense of truth and justice as well as a new impetus toward democratization. Barahona de Briton chronicles the back and forth dynamics of these characteristics over two phases – first, under the Aylwin government from 1990 to 1994; second, under the Frei government from 1994 to 2000 – as Chileans sought to confront and deal with human rights violations under the Pinochet regime. Along with this, she also looks at reconciliation versus democratization through the lens of the Pinochet arrest and consequent legal and political maneuverings in the late 1990s.
Brazil creates truth commission to probe rights abuses
from the article on BBC.co.uk: Brazil's Senate has voted to set up a truth commission to investigate rights abuses, including those committed during military rule from 1964 to 1985. The bill, already passed by the Chamber of Deputies, now goes to President Dilma Rousseff to be signed into law. Ms Rousseff, a former left-wing activist jailed by the military, had urged Congress to pass the legislation.
Brazil truth commission arouses military opposition.
From the BBC News article by Gary Duffy: A package of reforms put forward by the Brazilian government to improve human rights is causing growing controversy. A proposed truth commission to investigate torture during military rule is said to have so angered forces chiefs that they threatened to resign.
Central America: Promoting restorative justice
from the article by Rhegan Hyypio on Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns: ....Despite increased requests for alternative initiatives to curb violence and crime (for instance, see the Caravan for Peace, September-October 2012 NewsNotes), the U.S. continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Latin America, which often promotes a dysfunctional system. Lisa Haugaard, director of the Latin America Working Group, testified to the U.S. Congress in September: "[It] is essential that the United States not encourage militaries to take over roles that are more appropriate for police forces … In both Central America and Mexico, we are concerned that the U.S. government has either encouraged or tacitly supported inappropriate roles for the military ... Even though we all know that police are often too weak, corrupt, or abusive, it is a short-term and shortsighted solution to place military in police roles, and it can lead to more abuses. And military-style responses to law enforcement problems—whether or not they are carried out by military forces—can lead to serious human rights abuses."
Law of Justice and Peace
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Colombia moves past reconciliation and revives the idea of reparation
from Michelle Chen's article in Colorlines: When unspeakable crimes have been committed, justice often falls silent, too. That’s why half a century after Colombia plunged into bloody conflict and oppression, the healing has barely begun. But a new law is trying to make victims of the violence whole in a country still fractured by brutal violence. In the process, it has revived an old debate over reparations, and how society should confront past injustices that still shape life today. Colombia’s so-called “victims’ law” is the product of years of negotiation between the government and militia groups. The law centers on punishment as well as restitution. Many will be compelled to confess their crimes and, unlike many previous efforts at what’s been dubbed restorative justice, survivors will be allowed to petition for compensation.
Colombia to compensate victims of armed conflict.
From the article by Sibylla Brodzinsky in the Guardian: Nearly four million victims of Colombia's long-running internal conflict could receive compensation and see their stolen lands returned under a new law. Government and opposition figures as well as human rights activists have all hailed the legislation, which passed in the Senate last week, as "historic" and "transcendental". The law aims to give financial compensation – equivalent to about £6,600 – for every victim reported murdered or forcibly disappeared. Colombia has one of the highest numbers of disappearances in Latin America, with more than 57,200 people still missing, at least 15,600 of which were forcibly disappeared, according to the UN high commissioner for human rights. More than 100,000 murders during the last three decades are attributed to rightwing paramilitary groups.
Elster, Jon. Retribution and Reparation in the Transition to Democracy
The contributions in this volume offer a comprehensive analysis of transitional justice from 1945 to the present. They focus on retribution against the leaders and agents of autocratic regimes preceding democratic transitions, and on reparation to victims. Part I contains general theoretical discussions of retribution and reparation. The essays in Part II survey transitional justice in the wake of World War II, covering Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Norway. In Part III, the contributors discuss more recent transitions in Argentina, Chile, Eastern Europe, the former German Democratic Republic, and South Africa, with a chapter on the reparation of injustice in some of these situations. The editor provides a general introduction, a brief introduction to each part, and a conclusion that looks beyond regime transitions to vroader issues of rectifying historical injustice. (Publisher’s description)
Garcia-Godos, Jemima. Victim Reparations in the Peruvian Truth Commission and the Challenge of Historical Interpretation.
The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación (CVR)) has been praised for challenging positivist approaches to truth by focusing on victims and narrative interpretation. In this article, I argue that such a focus is not as problem-free as widely assumed. In spite of its normative human rights base, the CVR underestimated the issue of historical and political recognition of particular actors during the Peruvian armed conflict – an issue that bears practical and tangible consequences for the actors involved. I use the case of peasant self-defense groups and their treatment regarding potential reparations benefits to explore the challenges involved in combining a human rights agenda with issues of historical interpretation. (author's abstract)
Guembe, Maria Jose. Economic Reparations for Grave Human Rights Violations: The Argentinean Experience
"Since its return to democracy, Argentina has made great efforts to address the legacy of the last military dictatorship. This chapter presents a complete overview of the Argentinean policy of economic reparations for the victims of human rights violations committed between 1975 and 1983, including the beneficiaries, the crimes for which victims received reparations, the amounts paid, and the forms of payment. The study also analyzes the motivations for redressing the victims, from both national and international perspectives. It identifies the positions adopted by the different actors involved in the measures, especially the State and human rights organizations. The latter gained undeniable legitimacy by representing the victims and had consolidated into a group that has become the main actor on economic, legal, and political questions that have arisen during the process of designing and implementing the reparations policy." (excerpt)
Guillerot, Julie and Paz y Paz Bailey, Claudia and Rubio-Marín, Ruth. Indigenous peoples and reparations claims: Tentative steps in Peru and Guatemala.
In situations of large-scale violence and repression, reparations are best conceptualized as rights-based political projects aimed at giving victims due recognition and at enhancing civic trust both among citizens and between citizens and state institutions. This paper explores, in the light of two case studies, some of the goals, expectations and limitations of reparations as means of redressing identity-based injustice and setting the terms for a more just political order. What do reparations require when we are talking about people who, as is often the case with indigenous peoples, have traditionally been denied equal citizenship status, have experienced long-term, systematic marginalization and who may resist standard notions of citizenship? We argue that the process of creating as well as the content of reparations policies should, first, affirm the commonality of members of indigenous groups as citizens and holders of basic human rights. It should also affirm their condition as members of sub-state groups with distinct cultures and/or communal forms of life. While both Peru and Guatemala took steps to satisfy both of these criteria, the case studies show the limits of what even a well-crafted reparations program can do in terms of providing due redress to victims. They further illustrate that there are limitations to taking even modest steps toward transformation absent a serious commitment on the part of the state and ruling non-indigenous elites to the wider transformations that crafting a more inclusive political order would entail. (excerpt)
Gómez Isa, Felipe. Paramilitary demobilisation in Colombia: Between peace and justice.
As well as the global human rights treaties ratified by Colombia, the international context can count on the Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law approved in December 2005 by the General Assembly of the United Nations3.These guidelines set out a clear road map in processes of transitional justice, in which justice, the truth, wholesale reparations to the victims of gross violations of human rights and guarantees of non-repetition have to be respected. (excerpt)
Handy, Jim. Reimagining Guatemala: Reconciliation and the Indigenous Accords.
In this discussion, I explore both why this alteration [in Guatemala conceptions of society] is necessary and suggest why it is so difficult. To do the former, I explore briefly the history of marginalization of the Maya in Guatemala and how the marginalization was central to the non-Maya conception of the Guatemalan nation. I will then turn to a discussion of the ways in which the marginalization was challenged in the latter half of the twentieth century and how that challenge helped precipitate the worst period of violence. This will be followed by a discussion of the ways in which Mayan revitalization after 1985 helped lead to the ending of the civil war and the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996. I will examine the conflicts that have emerged in Guatemala concerning indigenous rights. Finally, I will explore briefly the disappointing history of what has been done since the signing of the accords, focusing on the recent failed attempt to constitutional change. (excerpt)
Internally displaced people in Colombia: Victims in permanent transition
by Dan Van Ness I have just received a copy of a research study on the peace negotiations in Colombia: Internally displaced people in Colombia: Victims in permanent transition: Ethical and political dilemmas of reparative justice in the midst of internal armed conflict by Sandro Jiménez Ocampo, et al. From 2004 to 2007, the Colombian Government conducted peace negotiations with paramilitary groups. One of the issues negotiated had to do with the claims of people who had been killed or forcibly displace from their land, lands that were held by the combatants when the negotiations began. Forced displacement and deaths continued during the course of the negotiations, creating new claims. While reparation to victims was supposed to be a prominent outcome to the negotiations, the difficulties of negotiating peace in the course of a violent conflict together with the absence of the victims of displacement from the negotiation meant that there were claims of serious inadequacies with the results.
Isaacs, Anita. At War with the Past? The Politics of Truth Seeking in Guatemala.
Truth seeking in postwar Guatemala is a political battleground in which perpetrators intent on guarding against accountability confront victims’ associations equally intent on exposing abuses endured during the country's 36-year armed conflict. Having stage-managed the peace negotiations that established the restrictive parameters of Guatemala's Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH), army officers and guerilla leaders ceded control of truth seeking to Commission staff and their civil society partners, even as the latter mobilized to push the CEH to its investigative limits. The CEH final report's finding that the army had committed genocide galvanized both sides. Victims’ associations insist on more truth alongside justice and reparations, while army perpetrators reject incriminating Commission findings. The Guatemalan case reveals how truth initiatives are at once politicized and polarizing and how politics interfere with a truth commission's effort to produce a consensus history, end violence or afford reconciliation. While it confirms that confronting the past risks undermining the labor of transition architects, it also suggests that these may be necessary evils that could eventually contribute to transforming and strengthening democracy. (author's abstract)
Jantzi, Vernon and King, Tracey. Peacemaking to Peacebuilding: Restorative Justice and Local Peace Commissions in Nicaragua
During the final stages of the Contra War in Nicaragua in the mid and late 1980s, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission promoted the formation of peace commissions in villages and towns in the most conflicted areas. CEPAD, the development agency of the Nicaraguan Protestant churches, actively worked to form Peace Commissions in the Nueva Guinea region in the southeastern part of the country. The local seven-person Peace Commissions were trained to work in conflict resolution so they could do peacemaking at the grassroots in support of efforts by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and other groups to carry forward the national peace processes. After official peace accords were signed the Commissions continued to work on the transition to national peace by helping to facilitate the reintegration of demobilized combatants into their respective communities as part of the post war reconstruction. This rebuilding has taken many years. The Commissions' work has been increasingly valued as their numbers and scope has grown. Today some 140 local peace commissions continue to function, but now their challenge is to work with community problems, some of which might be best addressed with restorative justice informed responses. With decades of war now behind them, their work has shifted from peacemaking and the reintegration of ex-combatants to peacebuilding and the challenges posed by social disorganization and crime in their communities. As the Peace Commissions now work to strengthen civil society in an extended period of social reconstruction, how might, or do, they reframe or reconceptualize their work in peacemaking to also include restorative justice so they can build more peaceful and stronger communities? This paper will explore how this reframing is taking place and the challenges it represents. Abstract courtesy of the Centre for Justice and Peace Development, Massey University, http://justpeace.massey.ac.nz.
Laplante, Lisa J.. The Peruvian Truth Commission's Historical Memory Project: Empowering Truth-Tellers to Confront Truth Deniers.
This article examines the role memory recuperation projects play in responding to and preventing periods of state repression and abuse. In particular, the author discusses the case of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that worked for two years to produce its 2003 Final Report. Investigating its internal armed conflict (1980-2000), the TRC sought to engage victims-survivors in testimony taking in order to write a new official version of the violence between the various parties to the conflict, including state armed forces, paramilitaries, insurgent groups, and local defense committees. The author proposes that it is not just the memory product that has potential for curative and preventive purposes but also the process of empowering the formerly silenced to become protagonists in a human rights movement that holds the government accountable. Moreover, by helping to break down entrenched habits of fear and distrust, and nurturing the democratic value of free expression, the Peruvian TRC encouraged victims-survivors to participate in new grassroots movements to pursue their justice claims. However, she argues that the TRC provided only the first step in Peru's effort to reveal the truth about its tragic past, and that victims-survivors are beginning to reject passive telling to third-party authors and instead are appropriating their own agency in disseminating memory. The article concludes with a discussion on how it is the change in personal and political status as truth-tellers, and not just the content of this truth, that makes memory projects important endeavors.(author's abstract)
Lean, Sharon F. Is truth enough? Reparations and reconciliation in Latin America
Many Latin American countries in the last two decades have undergone transitions from military rule or dictatorship to democracy, often through violence and then negotiation. In these countries it has been very challenging to promote national reconciliation in the wake of severe human rights violations. As Sharon Lean observes, the issues of reparation and reconciliation have become very prominent because of the gravity of the harms done by authoritarian regimes and by the realities of everyday life (where, after the fact, victims and perpetrators might see each other regularly because of small populations and concentrated centers of population). While truth commissions and truth-telling have been valuable, they are not enough in themselves, claims Lean, to deal satisfactorily with past injustices. With the incidence of claims for reparations growing n Latin America, Lean surveys reparations politics in Latin America. She begins by defining key terms, then summarizing the pertinent human rights violations. This leads to comparisons of bases for claims, mechanisms for managing claims, and reparations that have been made. Next she discusses the emerging issue of transnational reparations claims, and finally she reflects on the potential of reparations to repair the injustices of Latin America's recent past.
Let the victims speak: A voice from Peru on the Commissions on Truth and Disappearances
from the article by Eduardo González Cueva: On April 24, seven and a half years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Parliament voted to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Commission of Investigation on Disappeared Persons (CIDP). Given the long wait, some expected victims’ organizations and human rights groups to be ecstatic; but in fact, the opposite is true. They have strongly rejected the bill because—they claim—it will allow the commission to recommend amnesties for perpetrators of gross human rights violations.

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