Research Handbook on Transitional Justice
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Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett and Dov Jacobs

Providing detailed and comprehensive coverage of the transitional justice field, this Research Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to explore how societies deal with mass atrocities after periods of dictatorship or conflict. Situating the development of transitional justice in its historical context, social and political context, it analyses the legal instruments that have emerged.
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Chapter 19: Transitional justice and reparations: Remedying the past?

Luke Moffett


Reparations are often considered victim-centred transitional justice measures. While they have their basis in private law notions of corrective justice and the human rights principle of remedy, politics and economic resources often shape reparations in times of transition. Reparations in transitional societies often take time and require revisiting as the society becomes conscious of previously hidden or marginalized victims. Added to this is the challenge of delimiting those who are eligible, and determining when the transition ends. This raises questions of whether reparations are appropriate for historical violations caused by colonial governments or slavery. The chapter examines individual and collective reparations, apportionment amongst family members, reparation processes and mechanisms, as well as evidential and financial concerns. Although public resources may be limited in providing full compensatory awards to all victims, small sums or pensions along with public acknowledgement of victims’ suffering, wrongfulness of the perpetrators and institutions’ acts, along with guarantees of non-repetition can be ‘good enough’. This chapter argues that, despite the political wrangling over reparations during transition, the right to reparations in international law reflects the necessity of states to deliver reparations to victims of serious violations. Reparations; remedy; transformation; eligibility; responsibility

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