Restricted access - promises and pitfalls of victim participation in transitional justice mechanisms

As victim participation becomes absorbed by transitional justice mainstream policy, the actual impact and effectiveness of particular victim participation measures and models remain uncertain and elusive. Simultaneously, in view of the myriad of political and socio-economic realities surrounding victims and victimhood in some of the most devastating conflict contexts of the past two decades, the idea of victims as empowered actors driving transitional justice is slowly giving way to processes wherein victims appear, in fact, as marginalised and disempowered. While political elites hammer out political settlements and transitional justice measures, and international experts and professionals act as advisors or staffers of the institutions being established, the victims are simply involved, if at all, at the final stages of the process, in largely unfavourable conditions, and with limited leverage.


The present report looks at six cases of victim participation in transitional justice mechanisms: Burundi, Cambodia, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya and Tunisia. It compares the findings of the case studies conducted by Impunity Watch in each of these countries. It develops an overarching analysis and reaches conclusions regarding the actual practical experiences of victim participation in transitional justice, with an emphasis on participation in official or state-sanctioned TJ mechanisms.