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Traditional justice and legal pluralism in transitional context: The case of Rwanda's Gacaca Courts


Nagy, Rosemary, "Traditional justice and legal pluralism in transitional context: The case of Rwanda's Gacaca Courts," in Reconciliation(s): Transitional Justice in Postconflict Societies, ed. Joanna R. Quinn (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2009).

Author: Rosemary Nagy

Topics: Gender, Women, Justice, Impunity, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict, Sexual Violence Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2009

These Spaces in Between: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Its Role in Transitional Justice


Sajjad, Tazreena. 2009. “These Spaces in Between: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Its Role in Transitional Justice.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 3 (3): 424–44. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijp020.

Author: Tazreena Sajjad


National human rights institutions (NHRIs) play an instrumental role in defining the human rights culture of their respective countries through their monitoring function, auditing laws, instituting human rights education and making recommendations to governments to improve human rights conditions. In countries that have experienced large-scale human rights atrocities, NHRI mandates sometimes include working to establish processes to seek accountability for war crimes. The involvement in transitional justice matters raises a new set of challenges for these institutions regarding their independence, their role in creating space for local voices and their capacity to serve as a bridge between the government and national and international actors. Using as a case study the experience of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the author identifies several key areas within which this particular NHRI has had to negotiate the tensions between the political and the legal, and the local and the international. A close examination of each of these areas reveals the common challenges NHRIs face in taking on a transitional justice mandate, as well as the particular strengths and limitations of the AIHRC and its creativity and resolve in working in extremely difficult circumstances to seek accountability for the past.

Topics: Impunity, Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan

Year: 2009

No More Killings! Women Respond to Femicides in Central America


Prieto-Carrón, Marina, Marilyn Thomson, and Mandy Macdonald. 2007. “No More Killings! Women Respond to Femicides in Central America.” Gender and Development 15 (1): 25–40.

Authors: Marina Prieto Carrón, Marilyn Thomson, Mandy Macdonald


This article looks at a specific form of social violence against women in Mexico and Central America, the violent murder of women - femicidio or feminicidio in Spanish, femicide in English. We explore the nature of femicide by analysing the situation from a gender perspective, as an extreme form of gender-based violence (GBV), and linking femicides with discrimination, poverty and a 'backlash' against women. In a climate of total state impunity, it is extremely important to support the responses of feminists and women's organisations in the region who are carrying out research to document femicides and GBV in general, supporting survivors and their families, and carrying out advocacy activities. 

Topics: Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Justice, Impunity, Violence Regions: Americas, Central America, North America Countries: Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua

Year: 2007

Precursors to Femicide: Guatemalan Women in a Vortex of Violence


Carey Jr., David, and M. Gabriela Torres. 2010. “Precursors to Femicide: Guatemalan Women in a Vortex of Violence.” Latin American Research Review 45 (3): 142–64.

Authors: David Carey Jr., M. Gabriela Torres


Today women in Guatemala are killed at nearly the same rate as they were in the early 1980s when the civil war became genocidal. Yet the current femicide epidemic is less an aberration than a reflection of the way violence against women has become normalized in Guatemala. Used to re-inscribe patriarchy and sustain both dictatorships and democracies, gender-based violence morphed into femicide when peacetime governments became too weak to control extralegal and paramilitary powers. The naturalization of gender-based violence over the course of the twentieth century maintained and promoted the systemic impunity that undergirds femicide today. By accounting for the gendered and historical dimensions of the cultural practices of violence and impunity, we offer a re-conceptualization of the social relations that perpetuate femicide as an expression of post-war violence. 

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Justice, Impunity, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Paramilitaries, Post-Conflict Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2010

Political Violence, Impunity, and Emotional Climate in Maya Communities


Lykes, M. Brinton, Carlos Martín Beristain, and Maria Luisa Cabrera Pérez-Armiñan. 2007. “Political Violence, Impunity, and Emotional Climate in Maya Communities.” Journal of Social Issues 63 (2): 369–85.

Authors: M. Brinton Lykes, Carlos Martín Beristain, Maria Luisa Cabrera Pérez-Armiñan


This article explores the effects of political violence and impunity on the emotional climate of Guatemalan Maya communities and the processes that may be drawn upon to improve such climates as revealed by three studies conducted in the 1990s. The first investigated Guatemalan peasants’ emotional responses to political and military repression during an ongoing conflict; the second, the effects of partic- ipation in judicial processes among a Guatemalan community recovering from a massacre as peace was being negotiated; and the third, the emotional impact of responding to extreme human rights violations among rural Maya women who also critically examined their gendered location in war and peacemaking. Taken collectively, the findings of these studies suggest several resources that have been deployed by survivors of human rights violations in Guatemala as tools for im- proving emotional climate and for moving forward in ongoing struggles for truth and justice, even in contexts of persistent violence and impunity.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Justice, Impunity, Rights, Human Rights Regions: Americas, Central America Countries: Guatemala

Year: 2007

Women's participation in the Rwandan genocide: mothers or monsters?


Hogg, Nicole. 2010. “Women’s Participation in the Rwandan Genocide: Mothers or Monsters?” International Review of the Red Cross 92 (877): 69–102.

Author: Nicole Hogg


The participation of women in the 1994 Rwandan genocide should be considered in the context of gender relations in pre-genocide Rwandan society. Many 'ordinary' women were involved in the genocide but, overall, committed significantly fewer acts of overt violence than men. Owing to the indirect nature of women's crimes, combined with male 'chivalry', women may be under-represented among those pursued for genocide related crimes, despite the broad conception of complicity in Rwanda's Gacaca Law. Women in leadership positions played a particularly important role in the genocide, and gendered imagery, including of the 'evil woman' or 'monster', is often at play in their encounters with the law.

Topics: Gender, Women, Genocide, International Law, International Criminal Law, Justice, Impunity Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2010

Leaving Behind the Age of Impunity


Durbach, Andrea, and Louise Chappell. 2014. “Leaving Behind the Age of Impunity.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 16 (4): 543–62. doi:10.1080/14616742.2014.941251.

Authors: Andrea Durbach, Louise Chappell


As sexual violence in conflict – predominantly affecting women and girls – appears to increase in prevalence, gender justice advocates are calling for a reparations model that is not only restorative, but also, and more critically, preventative or transformative. This article asks whether the reparations mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Trust Fund for Victims has the potential to address the pre-conflict structural inequalities that often contribute to the sexual violence and harm experienced during and post-conflict. Drawing on social theorist Nancy Fraser's model of trivalent justice and the ICC's first reparations decision in Lubanga, this article argues that the design of the ICC's court-ordered reparations mandate, and the unrealistic expectations it raises, may make it untenable to support the key transformative elements of recognition, representation and redistribution essential to addressing structural inequities contributing to conflict-related sexual violence. It suggests however, that modifying initiatives of the ICC's Trust Fund for Victims and a greater emphasis by the ICC on the notion of member state “reparative complementarity” may provide mechanisms for transforming conditions that trigger and perpetuate gender violence during conflict.

Keywords: conflict-related sexual violence against women, international criminal court, reparations, Nancy Fraser

Topics: Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, International Law, International Organizations, Justice, Impunity, International Tribunals & Special Courts, Reparations, Sexual Violence, SV against women

Year: 2014

We Have No Orders to Save You:’ State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat


Human Rights Watch. 2002. “‘We Have No Orders to Save You:’ State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat.” Human Rights Watch.

Author: Human Rights Watch

Keywords: Asia, India, women's rights, sexual violence


State officials of Gujarat, India were directly involved in the killings of hundreds of Muslims since February 27 and are now engineering a massive cover-up of the state's role in the violence, Human Rights Watch charged in a new report released today. The Indian parliament is scheduled today to debate the situation in Gujarat, and may vote to censure the Indian government for its handling of the violence. The police were directly implicated in nearly all the attacks against Muslims that are documented in the 75-page report, 'We Have No Orders to Save You': State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat. In some cases they were merely passive observers. But in many instances, police officials led the charge of murderous mobs, aiming and firing at Muslims who got in the way. Under the guise of offering assistance, some police officers led the victims directly into the hands of their killers. Panicked phone calls made to the police, fire brigades, and even ambulance services generally proved futile. Several witnesses reported being told by police: "We have no orders to save you."

(Human Rights Watch)

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugee/IDP Camps, Gender, Women, Humanitarian Assistance, Justice, Impunity, Religion, Rights, Women's Rights, Violence Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 2002

On Living with Negative Peace and a Half-Built State: Gender and Human Rights


Azarbaijani-Moghaddam, Sippi. 2007. “On Living with Negative Peace and a Half-Built State: Gender and Human Rights.” International Peacekeeping 14 (1): 127–42. doi:10.1080/13533310601114335.

Author: Sippi Azarbaijani-Moghaddam


This article examines the double standards associated with a precarious international peacebuilding strategy in Afghanistan based on impunity and half-truths rather than accountability and transitional justice. Many international organizations have turned a blind eye to past and current human rights atrocities through forms of rationalization based on an empowerment of cultural differences, relativization of progress and ‘policy reductionism’. Consequently, and in the absence of consistently applied rights instruments, societal divisions along gender, ethnic and other lines have intensified Afghanistan’s culture of intolerance to human rights, thereby violating the very principles the international community purports to uphold. Drawing on first-hand experiences, personal interviews and a sober analysis of trends, this article challenges some of the conventional assumptions held about the perception and knowledge of human rights among Afghans. It concludes by identifying possible areas of future study to better understand both the prospects for transitional justice and how ordinary Afghans continue to cope with widespread injustice and inequality.


Topics: Armed Conflict, Occupation, Civil Society, Corruption, Ethnicity, Gender, International Organizations, Justice, Impunity, Transitional Justice, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militias, Paramilitaries, Peacebuilding, Rights, Human Rights, Violence Regions: Asia, Middle East Countries: Afghanistan

Year: 2007

Through the Looking Glass: Transitional Justice Futures through the Lens of Nationalism, Feminism, and Transformative Change


Brown, Kris, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin. 2015. "Through the Looking Glass: Transitional Justice Futures through the Lens of Nationalism, Feminism, and Transformative Change." The International Journal of Transitional Justice 9: 127-49.

Authors: Kris Brown, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin


In reflecting on the contemporary challenges and future directions of transitional justice theory and practice, this article addresses causality, accountability and political form in a triangulated assessment of nationalism’s power and ‘stickiness’ in the present formulations of transitional solutions. Addressing the identity politics of transitional justice brings us to assess the political forms that enable, define and consume transition with a particular hew to power-sharing and consociationalism-type arrangements in the aftermath of systematic atrocity. The authors provide a pragmatic, perhaps cynical account of the triumph of consociationalism as the preferred transitional accommodation, and point to the ‘dark side’ of governance arrangements in postconflict settings with implications for understanding cycles of violence and repeat conflict patterns. In both contexts, we deploy a feminist lens to understand the implications for women and gender transformation emerging from our framing of the politics of transitional justice in the contemporary moment.

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Governance, Post-conflict Governance, Justice, Impunity, Transitional Justice, Nationalism, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Year: 2015


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