10th Annual Emilio Mignone Lecture on Transitional Justice
Transitional justice is the process of making amends for human rights abuses
Transitional justice faces new challenges in the 2010s
The field has succeeded in normalizing the expectation that governments must redress past abuses
Many contemporary transitional justice measures suffer from isomorphic mimicry
On Feb. 20, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and the International Center for Transitional Justice hosted the 10th annual Emilio Mignone Lecture on Transitional Justice. The lecture series is named after Argentinian human rights activist, Emilio Mignone, who founded the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Center for Legal and Social Studies). The distinguished speaker of the evening was former UN Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff.
Transitional justice is the process of rectifying past human rights abuses. Mignone named his lecture “The Future of the Past,” in which he discusses the role of transitional justice in dealing with how past atrocities present themselves in the present. De Greiff organized his presentation in three parts: preliminary remarks on transitional justice, the achievements of the field, and challenges facing transitional justice in the modern world.
Respect of the social contract is the basis of any civil society, but when governments abuse the rights of its citizens, belief in the rule of law crumbles and cannot be easily regained. In order to reestablish the social contract, de Greiff believes transitional justice must play a small role in a larger transformative agenda. He claimed that transitional justice faces new challenges in the 2010s as nations, such as the United States and Brazil, regress under nostalgia.
De Greiff celebrated the achievements of transitional justice in normalizing the insurance and restitution of human rights. Transitional justice, he said, has provided acknowledgement to victims and promoted civic trust in countries with “problematic pasts”. De Greiff cited the Colombian Peace Agreement Referendum, instituted in 2016 as a response to the decades long conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as an example of a truth commission successfully addressing the wrongdoings of government.
Despite these achievements, De Greiff believes transitional justice has become formulaic and technocratic in recent years. Many of the countries now in need of transitional justice reform contain legal vacuums and large expanses of territory in which citizens have minimal interaction with government institutions — as opposed to the field’s fledgling experiences in Latin America. When transitional justice workers fail to regard this important context, they institute reforms which fail to address the actual causes of inequality. This is what De Greiff calls “isomorphic mimicry” — when governments replicate the policies of other governments without any adaptation to context.
This report was compiled by Danny Hegberg on Feb. 26, 2018, and edited by Jamin Chen.