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Righting Victim Participation in Transitional Justice

Project description

New understanding of transitional justice

Mass atrocities and systematic abuse devastate societies and test judiciary systems. Transitional Justice (TJ) refers to how governments and other actors seek accountability for past wrongdoings and try to ensure justice. Victim participation is increasingly considered a crucial element of these processes. However, TJ processes face practical, financial and political constraints, both in and of themselves, and when it comes to victim participation. The EU-funded VictPart project will conduct systematic analyses, empirical and comparative studies to establish an academic framework on the subject of victim participation in transitional justice. It will provide new insight into victim experience, and help organise victim participation processes in efficient ways to improve legal stability and safety in societies that are transitioning towards democracy.


The question of how to serve justice, facilitate peaceful transitions and empower victims of past large-scale abuses is about as old as the field of transitional justice (TJ) itself. Increasingly, academics and practitioners are turning to participatory approaches as a promising way to make advances regarding these issues. An oft-cited benefit of victim participation in TJ processes is that it allegedly increases the legitimacy of these processes by rendering them more locally relevant, and that it empowers participants.

However, little is known about how to organize this participation in practice or under which conditions alleged benefits (for individual victims-participants or for society at large) are likely to materialize. As a result, participation is often organized in an 'add-victims-and-stir' way, with little critical reflection about potential unforeseen or long-term effects.

Because TJ processes often face significant practical, financial and political constraints, it is crucial to better understand how participatory approaches can be developed in ways that contribute to a positive and lasting legacy.

The main objective of this project is therefore threefold, (1) to conduct a systematic analysis of the scope, nature, modalities and role of victim participation in transitional justice processes, (2) to study empirically and comparatively how participation shapes victims' experience and understandings of justice and their rights, and (3) to develop a critical victimology framework and establish how this framework can be used to conceptualize victim participation in ways that contribute to TJ's goal of engendering just, stable and secure societies.

A multi-disciplinary approach, rooted in legal studies, social psychology, political science, public administration and anthropology is proposed, which allows for a multi-dimensional understanding of these issues, both in academic and in practical terms.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 497 407,00
9000 Gent

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen Arr. Gent
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 497 407,00

Beneficiaries (1)