Victim Participation

Victims have been a key political driving force since the early days of transitional justice. With the field becoming increasingly institutionalised and technical, it is pivotal to maintain the central role of victims in pushing forward innovative transitional justice approaches. Without meaningful and diverse victim participation, policies dealing with the past are more likely to be detached from affected communities, face difficulties in generating local ownership, and fail to adequately address the grievances of victims. Victims should thus be empowered to influence and participate in the design and implementation of justice measures and policies.


Our 2014-2016 victim participation study found that effective victim participation is closely linked to informal initiatives, such as those led by social movements and grassroots civil society. The contours of meaningful victim participation and its impact are yet to be clarified. One key question that persists, for example: how can victim participation help strengthen guarantees of non-recurrence of future abuse?


Over the past few years, Impunity Watch has been conducting research and formulating policy advice and recommendations on the topic of victim participation in transitional justice. We began our work on this topic in Burundi in 2012 and have since expanded our efforts to the extent that ensuring increased and more meaningful victim participation in transitional justice processes now forms one of our three strategic programme priorities for the period 2017-2021. As such, our priority is to: support victims to organise and advocate their rights; increase our partners’ understanding of the importance of participating in informal justice processes in correlation with former ones; ensure victim participation in political, peace and reform processes that prevent abuse and guarantee non-recurrence; and to encourage policymakers to develop and preserve space for victims in formal and informal transitional justice processes.


To this end, our programmes and activities include: direct and specific engagement with victim and survivor groups; customised training; intensive as requested; and other forms of dedicated victim support. Our advocacy and policy activities include ensuring victim participation at, and the influencing of discussions in, relevant policy fora. These will include the UN Human Rights Council, the review of the UN peace-building architecture, and implementation of EU and AU policy frameworks.


More information on our victim participation research can be found here:


Victim Participation in Transitional Justice Mechanisms: Real Power or Empty Ritual?
Burundi's TRC officially launched: But will victims participate?
To Participate is to Have Hope...Victim Participation in Tunisia's Transitional Justice Process
Victim Participation and Transitional Justice in Cambodia: the case of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
We struggle with Dignity: Victims Participation inTranstional Justice in Guatemala
The Past Should not be Forgotten: Victims' Participation in Honduran Truth Commissions

'Restricted Access' Promises and Pitfalls of Victim Participation in Transitional Justice Mechanisms 

In the Shadow of Politics: Victim Participation in the Kenyan ICC Cases