Contemporary debate about compensation for past wrongs turns on the assumption that state reparations benefits the victims of atrocity by acknowledging harm and ameliorating victim suffering. Indeed, much recent theoretical and practical work has concurred to establish reparation to victims of state crimes as a cornerstone of human rights. However, this article argues that reparation can also function to placate victim demands for criminal justice and to regulate the range of political and historical meanings with which the crimes of the past are endowed. This is most evident in transitional political contexts in which gestures of reparation are usually concomitant with the inauguration of new political orders, and formal investigations of past atrocity are conditioned by the balancing of the political demands of new and old regimes. This article argues that in such contexts, state reparation can work to control social suffering with the consequence that it sometimes intensifies rather than alleviates it. To evidence this claim, the article investigates the refusal of reparations by the victims towards whom it is addressed, with reference to Argentina’s Madres de Plaza de Mayo. This analysis of their refusal demonstrates how victim groups make important challenges to some of the core assumptions in the field, reveals internal inconsistencies within the analytical architecture of the scholarly and professional discourse, and indicates the ways in which reparations carry political, and not just palliative, significance.
[Cross-posted from the WITNESS Hub Blog.]
You’ll recall that a few months back that Queen Rania of Jordan launched a YouTube channel aimed at “breaking down stereotypes about the Arab and Muslim worlds and to bridging the East-West divide.” Three million views and 43,000 messages later, YouTube has awarded her its inaugural Visionary Award.
UPDATE – 26 Nov 2008:
Global Voices has posted some blogger reactions here.
It fell to the controversial figure of Carla del Ponte, prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague, to lament the slow progress of justice in the Former Yugoslavia in a lecture she delivered last week. del Ponte picked out Serbia as a country “removed from the European values”, arguing that truth and justice remain “relative concepts, rather than absolute values”.
In the wake of these comments, the time seems ripe to consider how video fits in to the quest for post-conflict justice. How does the use of video relate to such concepts as truth, reconciliation and accountability? It’s an especially interesting question in a region like the Former Yugoslavia, where the population remains so starkly divided in its interpretations of the recent past.
As the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) noted, video of historical atrocities is being used as part of the continuing propaganda war in the Former Yugoslavia, and few debates around video footage in 2006 have been as highly-charged as the one that accompanied this video clip, first broadcast by Serbia’s B92 television station in August 2006.
Warning: the following video contains graphic imagery of human rights abuse
The video depicts events that took place during so-called “Operation Storm” in August 1995. It came to light almost exactly eleven years later – the most recent example of video footage apparently released to coincide with the anniversaries of major atrocities committed by different sides in the Balkan wars.