What's Law Got to do with it? Assessing International Courts' Contribution to Reparative Justice for Victims of Mass Atrocities through their Reparations Regimes

Alina Balta

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Summary

This thesis aimed to assess how four international courts mandated to provide reparations may contribute to reparative justice for victims of international crimes and gross human rights violations (i.e. mass atrocities) by means of their reparations regimes. The four courts are the International Criminal Court, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Drawing on a robust literature review, this thesis proposed a taxonomy of reparative justice (conceptualized as procedural justice and substantive justice) to study international courts’ reparations regimes. The core of the thesis are individual chapters devoted to analyses of each of the Court’s practice on reparations utilizing the taxonomy of reparative justice, ultimately putting forward an assessment on how each court may potentially contribute to reparative justice for victims through their reparations regimes. To scrutinize each court’s practice on reparations, a qualitative data analysis software was employed – Atlas.ti – which enabled robust and systematic identification, coding and analysis of all elements pertaining to procedural justice and substantive justice throughout the courts’ entire jurisprudence on reparations for mass atrocities. The final chapter put forward a general reflection on how international courts that are mandated to provide reparations may contribute to reparative justice for victims of mass atrocities. In the first part, this chapter advanced one of the most complex overviews existing in the literature to date, highlighting the legal characteristics, standards, and practices around reparations in the context of international courts, combined with an articulation of the aspects that help to explain the courts’ potential contribution to reparative justice. In the second part, the chapter pondered on possible implications flowing from this research’s findings. First, it argued for a need to rethink the notions and elements pertaining to reparative justice. It posited that studying the courts’ contribution to reparative justice as procedural justice and substantive justice requires more robust theoretical notions that go beyond the courts’ formal roles and account for the complexities identified in the research.

Second, for international courts mandated to provide reparations to enhance their potential contribution to reparative justice, it was recommended that:

1) International courts expand the number of beneficiaries of reparative justice;
2) International courts provide adequate support for victims to actualize their statutory rights and prerogatives, which might include support to the legal representatives, the Victims’ Units, TFV and other relevant actors;
3) International courts flesh out an accountability mechanism for the various actors actualizing the victims’ rights and prerogatives before courts;
4) International courts reduce the length of proceedings;
5) International courts award reparations that respond as much as possible to the victims’ harm and where possible, their preferences;
6) Deeper reflection on the possibilities to actualize the reparations regimes when international courts are established;
7) Lower expectations are attached to reparations in the context of international courts.

Finally, the section reflected on the suitability of including a reparations regime and aspirations of reparative justice within the mandate of international courts. It put forward legal and moral arguments to highlight the importance of including reparations regimes and aspirations of reparative justice within the mandates of international courts. At the same time, it highlighted the importance of employing additional efforts to those of international courts to afford reparative justice to victims of mass atrocities.
Original languageEnglish
Award date18 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

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