Invisible transitional justice : a comparative case in the Catatumbo and Montes de Maria regions (Colombia)
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This thesis, which is grounded in ethnography and participatory action research methodologies, takes as its starting point the contention that war victims tend to prioritize truth and justice to overcome the legacies of gross human rights violations. Focusing in two war-affected regions in the 50-year-long civil war in Colombia (Catatumbo and Montes de Maria), the question that it seeks to answer is whether the particular survivors’ demands fit within the agenda of transitional justice (TJ) at both the international and national level. This question has explored three dimensions. Firstly, this study identifies the main elements of the global agenda of TJ, evidencing that despite the profound changes in its traditional settings, the field remains petrified in its initial assumptions and institutions. Second, to determine the constituent elements of the TJ system in Colombia, this thesis looks beyond the legal dimension of TJ to delve into the politics of the transitions of these processes. Finally, the greatest emphasis is placed on the identification of the expectations of 130 victims to leave a troublesome past behind, considering exclusively their own understandings and realities. The notion of the everyday is used here as it captures those elements that condition their demands, seeing them as no longer restricted to their victimization but related to their immediate requirements and choices to address different types of violence. A stark discrepancy between the macro TJ priorities and the preferences of those who are the alleged main beneficiaries of these policies has been found. While the former are based on a limited concept of justice that seeks to resolve the visible marks of violence, the latter seek to transform those structures that gave rise to, and continue to, perpetuate violence. Therefore, despite the fact that at international and national levels, there have been great debates and disputes about justice and truth as the adequate response towards closure of a painful and divisive past, in the contexts studied and in the testimonies of the victims, TJ has remained, at best, invisible.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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