Transitional Justice & Historical Abuse

Professors Brandon Hamber and Patricia Lundy have published a new article on “Lessons from Transitional Justice? Toward a New Framing of a Victim-Centered Approach in the Case of Historical Institutional Abuse”. The article was published in the journal Victims and Offenders in April 2020.

The article critically examines transitional justice mechanisms to determine if historical abuse inquiries can learn from this field of practice. The article explores the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry which reported its findings in January 2017 as a vehicle for addressing what lessons might be learned or shared between the fields of transitional justice and investigations into historical abuse. Through a detailed analysis of empirical research with those that gave testimony to the Inquiry, including fourthly-three victims and Inquiry transcripts, the article explores to what extent the Inquiry was victim-centered, enabled victim participation (beyond giving testimony) and addressed victim needs. The article shows that many of the flaws of transitional justice mechanisms have been replicated when dealing with historical child abuse.

Drawing on lessons from transitional justice – both positive and negative – the article outlines five broad areas for consideration that could strengthen the victim-centered nature of approaches to dealing with the legacy of historical child abuse. The article concludes that addressing victims’ needs should be at the center and drive approaches and processes for both transitional justice and historical institutional abuse.

To request the article contact Professor Hamber. If you have journal access the article can be downloaded here.

Public Engagement Basque Country

On 5 October 2018, The Chair was invited to the “5th Social Forum” (hosted by Bake Bidea) in the Basque Country. This civil society structure aims to engage the wider society in the peace process and it took place in Pamplona. The title of the conference was the “Right to know the truth: mechanisms for the recognition and reparation of the victims of the conflict” and The Chair gave the keynote address followed by discussion with the wider public.

Speaking at the 5th Social Forum in Pamplona

The event was covered in a range of newspapers provoking a range of different reactions:

Brandon Hamber: “La búsqueda de la verdad tiene aspectos incómodos para todos”

El Foro Social pide que se priorice la verdad por encima del interés político

Un foro insistirá en Pamplona en blanquear el pasado de ETA: “Se deben respetar todos los relatos”

Truth and Reconciliation Platform

On 13 September 2018 the Chair hosted the Truth and Reconciliation Platform in the Great Hall at Magee. The event took the form of survivors of the conflict sharing their stories and experiences with the public. Powerful testimony was given by Joe Campbell, Kathleen Gillespie, Stephen Travers and Alan McBride. The evening was deeply moving and inspirational, and shows why moving forward the peace process is so important.

Paper: Victim and Survivor Issues

cvsni-logoMore locally, Professor Hamber recently was able to make some very direct suggestions around victim policy at the “Building the Future: Victim and Survivor Issues in Context. Review of the Victims and Survivors Strategy 2009-2019 Conference hosted by the Commission for Victims and Survivors, Titanic Belfast, 9-10 March 2016. Professor Hamber presented a paper on the victim issues and stumbling blocks in the dealing with the past process. The paper argues that

1.We cannot build the future if we do not have a common vision for the future;
2.We cannot build the future if we do not truly understand the past;
3.We cannot build the future without a holistic and collaborative approach; and
4.We cannot build a future without dealing with dominant masculine cultures.

If you would like to read the paper it can be downloaded here.

Pictured at the Commission for Victims and Survivors Conference to review the Victims Strategy are Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Commissioner Judith Thompson and First Minster Arlene Foster (Credit: VCS website. Press Eye - Northern Ireland -9th March 2016)
Pictured at the Commission for Victims and Survivors Conference to review the Victims Strategy are Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Commissioner Judith Thompson and First Minster Arlene Foster (Credit: VCS website. Press Eye – Northern Ireland -9th March 2016)

Public lecture at Sigmund Freud University

On 12 January 2016 the Chair travelled to Berlin to the Sigmund Fhqdefaultreud University where he was asked to deliver a public lecture as part of their social psychology series. The title of the lecture Professor Hamber gave was “Ambivalence as a goal of reconciliation”. The lecture explored how for victims of political violence they are often asked to live with ambivalence in a productive way, i.e. continue their lives after a peace process despite the
suffering and loss they have experiences. Similarly, Hamber argued that societies emerging from conflict need to find collective social and political ways of living with the ambivalences of the past. This type of thinking is difficult to reconcile with the approach of governments and policymakers, as it is hard to imagine how one can create policy for long-term (perhaps never-ending) processes for which there is no quick fix.