Journal of Human Rights, 12:423–446, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1475-4835 print / 1475-4843 online
Reparations and Reconciliation in the Aftermath
of Civil War
PRAKASH ADHIKARI AND WENDY L. HANSEN
Both international legal principles and much of the literature on transitional justice support the provision of reparations as a necessary component of justice in postconflict societies. According to the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines (United Nations 2005: para.
IX), “adequate, effective and prompt reparation is intended to promote justice by redressing gross violations of international human rights law or serious violations of international humanitarian law.” However, few scholarly studies have looked systematically
at victims’ views of the importance of various forms of reparations in providing justice.
Using individual-level data collected in the aftermath of the civil war in Nepal, we investigate people’s perceptions of the importance of various forms of reparations that appear
in the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines and that have been offered in transitional justice processes. The findings suggest that compensation for losses, along with punishment
of perpetrators, are viewed as being more important to providing justice for individuals
than other forms of reparations, regardless of the type of grievance(s) suffered.
Recent research suggests that reparations are important for the successful reconciliation of
societies emerging out of a prolonged period of conflict or political repression (Laplante and
Theidon 2007), and that more attention needs to be given to developing “victim-oriented
models” of reparation programs (David and Choi 2005; Robins 2011). Transitional justice
scholars argue that reparations are not handouts but a “recognition of victims’ rights and the
harms they suffer” under repressive regimes or during civilian conflicts (Magarrell 2007).
Reparative justice should therefore aim at identifying grievances and repairing such harms
in order to restore human dignity.
Reparations are considered an integral part of the transitional justice process; they cover
a broad range of programs that “seek to make up . . . for the harms endured by some members
or sectors of society” under previous repressive regimes or during conflict (De Greiff 2006:
1). The UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for
Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of
International Humanitarian Law (hereafter UN Basic Principles and Guidelines) stipulate
that reparations programs typically include five measures: (1) restitution, (2) compensation, (3) rehabilitation, (4) satisfaction, and (5) guarantees of nonrepetition (UN 2005).
Drawing insights from existing literature on transitional justice, we investigate the nature of
Prakash Adhikari is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Central Michigan University.
Wendy L. Hansen is Professor of Political Science at the University of New Mexico.
Funding for this research came from the U.S. National Science Foundation (SES-0819494) and
Research Allocation Committee, University of New Mexico.
Address correspondence to Prakash Adhikari, Department of Political Science, Central Michigan
University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859, USA. E-mail: email@example.com
Prakash Adhikari and Wendy L. Hansen
grievances and the relationship between grievance and citizens’ perceptions of justice vis-àvis various types of reparations typically offered. We document the nature of individual-level
grievances, individuals’ willingness to seek reparations when offered, and their attitudes
towards different types of reparations as forms of justice in the aftermath of a civil conflict.
The findings are expected to make a significant contribution to the recent efforts of scholars
to build a “victim-oriented” approach to understanding reparations (David and Choi 2005;
Laplante and Theidon 2007; Robins 2011, 2012; Adhikari, Hansen, and Powers 2012).
Historically, reparations have been justified as a necessary measure to remedy past
injustices inflicted upon societies, particularly focusing on the crimes committed during
World War II and crimes stemming from slavery, racism, colonialism, and autocratic rule
(Barkan 2007). More recently reparations have been recommended as a means of pursuing
justice for victims of all types of political oppression, such as ethnic the conflicts in the
former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sudan and insurgencies in Peru and Colombia (Falk
2006). This literature has been very useful in describing why atrocities committed in the
past need to be rectified to provide justice to victims and to reduce the potential danger of
future human rights violations.
We extend this research to a study of civil war settlement. Normatively, we argue that
people’s perceptions of justice under a program of reparations can have an important impact
on reconciliation processes and need to be taken into account by states. Empirically, we ask
the following: What types of grievances do people report, what is the association between
types of grievance(s) incurred and applications for reparations, and which commonly offered
forms of reparative justice are viewed as most important by the victims of various types of
crimes in providing justice in the aftermath of civil war?
Using primary data collected at the individual level in the aftermath of the civil war
in Nepal, we describe the types of grievances individuals report, investigate the demand
for reparations given individual-level grievances, and highlight people’s perceptions of
the importance of various forms of reparations that have been offered under transitional
justice processes for providing justice to victims. Does the type of reported grievance
impact whether or not people seek reparations or their perceptions of the importance of
a particular form of reparation in providing justice? We investigate perceptions of justice
from a victims’ perspective, which is potentially important for reconciliation. Given the
emphasis of international organizations and international law on the need for broader
reparation for victims of human rights violations, we expect the demand for reparations
and the importance of different types of reparations to vary by the nature of the grievance
incurred. In the next section, we review the relevant literature, followed by a discussion of
the theoretical argument, a description of the research design, data, and empirical results.
While it is virtually impossible to conduct an exhaustive review of existing literature on
transitional justice, the literature that is most relevant to the present study is summarized
below. One important area of transitional justice research is the literature on reparations.
Scholars highlight the importance of reparations as a mechanism for addressing past atrocities (De Greiff 2006; Roht-Arriaza and Mariezcurrena 2006; Teitel 2000), describe the
types of reparations considered in transitional justice (Minow 2002; Magarrell 2007) and
discuss the process of instituting Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) to provide
reparations across countries during different time periods in history (Hayner 2001; Minow
2002; Elster 2004). Another body of research explains the development of the field of transitional justice as a legal response by newly established democracies to the wrongdoings of
Reparations and Reconciliation
past repressive regimes (O’Donnell and Schmitter 1986; Teitel 2003, 2008; Arthur 2009).1
Additionally, some researchers have focused on analyzing the success of TRCs in countries
where one has been instituted (Hayner 1994; Gibson 2004).
The above literature is important for understanding the process of reconciliation and
for providing a historical background for the development of transitional justice as a
subject of inquiry. Emphasis has largely been placed on understanding reparations in the
context of transitions to democracy from repressive regimes. Scholars tend to assume that
reparations are a natural component of a transition process, echoing the recent trend to
include reparations as a provision in peace agreements signed in the aftermath of civilian
conflicts. More recently, scholars have argued in favor of the need to understand reparations
from a victim’s perspective. For example, using individual-level data collected from former
political prisoners in the Czech Republic, David and Choi (2005) analyze the impact of
various reparations programs, including financial compensation, on victims’ satisfaction.
They find that while financial compensation and reinstatement of previous professions
provide “satisfaction” to former prisoners, lack of reconciliatory measures such as truthtelling and an apology from the perpetrator “inhibits sociopolitical redress” (David and
Choi 2005: 426). In a study on the impact of reparations in Peru, Laplante and Theidon
found that victim’s demand for justice, especially among the rural poor, is dominated by
“practical considerations such as the need for farm animals, suitable housing, or education
for their children” (2007: 243). The authors found that unlike Argentina where the families
of the disappeared “refused compensation” because they considered it as a “means for the
state to evade criminal responsibility,” poverty denied the Peruvian victims the “option of
refusal” (Laplante and Theidon 2007: 243).
An emerging body of literature also looks at individuals’ perceptions of justice and
people’s attitudes towards transitional justice mechanisms, including reparations. Based
on findings drawn mostly from data gathered at the individual level, these scholars argue
that individuals’ priorities for measures of reparations and justice are context specific. For
instance, in an individual-level study conducted in the Central African Republic, Vinck
and Pham (2010) found higher levels of education and wealth associated with greater
awareness and knowledge about the International Criminal Court (ICC). They also found
that ICC outreach programs delivered through the mass media contributed positively to
creating awareness and a majority of the respondents thought that the ICC would “answer
the need for justice” (Vinck and Pham 2010: 439). In a similar study conducted in Northern
Uganda, Pham and Vinck find that while only 59 percent of the 2,498 respondents had
knowledge of the ICC, 97 percent of them said “victims should receive reparations, most
often (49%) because they are believed to be poor and need it, as a form of acknowledgement
or recognition of their suffering (24%), and to help them forget (19%)” (2010: 44–45).
The same study also reports that people put priority on fulfillment of basic needs and
services in demanding reparations. In yet another similar study conducted in Cambodia,
Pham et al. found that a vast majority of the respondents recommend “jobs and services
to meet basic needs, including health and food as well as improvement in the country’s
infrastructure such as electricity, roads, and building of schools” as reparations (2011: 3).
Justice in the form of “trials and punishment of the wrongdoers” was the second most
recommended form of reparations (Pham et al. 2011: 35). Vinck et al. also conducted a
study of individuals’ perceptions of peace and security in postwar Liberia and conclude that
“education, health, and employment were mentioned most frequently by the respondents
as their main priorities” and they suggest that their government focus on reducing poverty
(2011: 3). Sixty-five percent of the 4,501 respondents to this study proposed financial
compensation, 45 percent housing, and 45 percent education as “measures for victims”
Prakash Adhikari and Wendy L. Hansen
(Vinck et al. 2011: 4). Biro et al. (2004) study citizens’ attitudes toward reconciliation in
the aftermath of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Based on householdlevel data collected in three cities affected by the ethnic conflict, the authors conclude that
“authoritarianism, nationalism, and ethnocentrism may be the most important obstacles
to the process of reconciliation among national groups in the former Yugoslavia” (Biro
et al. 2004: 199). Interestingly, and to their surprise, the authors also find that the “level
of traumatic experience did not correlate with seeking war crime trials, or with positive
attitude towards the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)”
(Biro et al. 2004: 200). Based on this finding, the authors conclude that “justice may not
mean trials but a much more personal sense of what they need in order to move on with
their lives” (Biro et al. 2004: 201).
In a case study of Nepal, Pasipanodya (2008) makes a forceful argument for addressing
economic and social injustice in the ongoing peace process. She criticizes the International
Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ 2008) for failing to include questions on material
loss to the 811 respondents surveyed by the organization and provides some very useful
suggestions for incorporating provisions on economic and social justice into the proposed
TRC bill. Aguirre and Pietropaoli (2008) further argue that marginalization of women and
their exclusion from the economic development process in the past gave rise to the Maoist
insurgency. Therefore, the transitional process must address the issue of “gender equality”
and ensure women’s participation in the development of the country in order for the peace
process to be meaningful. In a victim-centered in-depth study of the needs of families of
disappeared persons during the civil war in Nepal, Robins (2011) finds that a large majority
of the respondents give priority to monetary compensation, while welcoming justice in
the long term. In yet another victim-centered study on the impact of transitional justice
in Timor-Leste, Robins (2012) finds that victims give priority to economic support over
truth-seeking. Our study is inspired by the recent trend towards victim-oriented approaches
to studying reparations and we contribute to the body of literature that emphasizes the
importance of victim-centered empirical research in the field of transitional justice.
Theoretical Argument and Research Hypotheses
The main objective of this research is to analyze victim’s perceptions of justice under
transitional justice processes. The UN Basic Principles and Guidelines defines victims
as “persons who individually or collectively suffered harm, including physical or mental
injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental
rights” through violations of international human rights or humanitarian law (UN 2005:
Principles & Guidelines V). The literature on transitional justice argues that wars inevitably
cause destruction and harm, which take the form of material, intangible, and personal losses
(Elster 2004). Material loss could occur due to a loss of property resulting from seizure
or destruction of personal property such as land, homes, crops, livestock, and the like.
Intangible losses are those that arise as a result of forgone opportunities caused by the
disruption of regular livelihood activities such as education, business, employment, and so
on. Wars also “kill and maim people” (Ghobarah, Huth, and Russett 2003) or subject people
to various forms of physical or mental suffering that constitute personal loss. Collectively
we will refer to such losses as conflict induced grievances (CIGs) that provide grounds for
a transitional justice process to be initiated and reasons for individuals to demand some
form or forms of reparations.
Theoretically, from a rational choice perspective, it is reasonable to assume that individuals who experienced CIGs would place demands on the state for some form of
Reparations and Reconciliation
reparation for harms suffered. Moreover, given that most civil wars occur in countries with
high levels of poverty, we would expect compensation to be one of their primary demands.
As discussed above, many existing empirical studies, which suggest that compensation is
an important form of reparations, confirm this expectation. However, given the range of
reparations identified under international law and the precedents set in past and ongoing
transitional justice processes, reconciliation processes would suggest reparations that go
beyond mere compensation. We expect rational individuals who suffer CIGs of any type
to be more likely to seek reparations, and specifically compensation from governments in
the aftermath of a civil war. But do demands for reparations go beyond mere monetary
compensation? In other words, is the emphasis by international organizations on a need for
broader reparations likely to lead to greater justice; and more specifically, do people who
suffer different types of CIGs vary in their perceptions of the importance of different forms
of reparations to providing justice?
The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), arguably the leading international organization championing the issue of transitional justice globally, argues that
a “reparation policy must usually include several measures that combine material and
symbolic components rather than relying only on a single measure” (Magarrell 2007: 4).
Symbolic reparations may take several forms including a formal apology and or official
acknowledgement of wrongdoing from perpetrators, or naming of a street or constructing
monuments in honor of victims. While reparations in any form may not completely compensate for the grievances emanating out of a protracted civil war, symbolic reparations
such as memorials and monuments may provide the victims with some sense of honor.
It is argued that symbolic reparations are particularly important for establishing peace in
countries emerging out of conflict (Cairns and Roe 2003). They help conflict-torn societies
to construct a collective memory of the past and enable them to reconcile with the present.
Given the emphasis of international organizations and reconciliation processes on
broader forms of justice, we seek to analyze the relationship between CIGs and victim
demands for reparations. We hypothesize that individual victims of material loss are likely
to demand some form of monetary compensation or return of property. Those who suffer
intangible losses are also likely to demand monetary compensation, including medical and
educational support or employment benefits, along with restitution. Those who suffer from
personal loss caused by the murder and disappearance of family members or those who
suffer bodily or psychological injury to themselves may demand monetary compensation,
but the emphasis of international organizations on the importance of broader reparations
would suggest that these individuals should also demand reparations that are reparative in
nature. In particular, demands for personal loss should include reparations in the form of
an official apology, an acknowledgement of wrongdoing from the perpetrators, recognition
through commemorations, or the trial and punishment of the wrongdoers in a court of law.
We acknowledge that a TRC has not yet been established for Nepal; in this context, the
question we address is “What do individuals demand from a transitional justice process?”
Overall, we expect the demand for reparations and people’s perceptions of justice to
vary by the type(s) of CIG incurred; we investigate whether victims’ views of justice for
various types of CIGs require reconciliation provisions that go beyond mere monetary
compensation, which international organizations suggest is important to achieving justice.
While we expect victims of all types of loss to seek moneta ...
Purchase answer to see full