Human Rights Under Threat: Implications for Transitional Justice
Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Human Rights and Transitional Justice
The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres acknowledged in his opening statement to the 73rd UN General Assembly that, “the human rights agenda is losing ground and authoritarianism is on the rise.” Indeed, we seem to be witnessing an increase of autocracies, illiberal democracies, and democratically elected populist governments with an anti-human rights agenda.
We are also observing an increase of armed conflict and a growing disregard for humanitarian law. Preventing armed conflict is a key priority for the Secretary General and there is an ongoing reform within the United Nations to up-stream prevention. Interestingly this reform is focusing on the development pillar and the peace and justice pillar while it is ignoring the third pillar, human rights. Russia, China, and the US have signalled their growing distrust and frustration with UN human rights mechanisms and the US dramatically quit the UN Human Rights Council calling it a “cesspool of political bias.” Human rights are controversial and, as a result, are in danger of being disregarded. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70 years old, the future of human rights looks increasingly bleak.
If transitional justice is built upon international human rights norms, as we believe it is, the ongoing attacks on human rights will have repercussions for transitional justice. In this section, we would like to explore what those implications could be. Among others, these implications could include whether principles of accountability will be relaxed, or whether the emphasis on universal human rights as State obligations will be undermined. It is thus important to take stock of how ongoing reflections and debates within the human rights movement resonate in the transitional justice field. Are human rights currently under threat? What is the future for international human rights norms? Is there a need to embrace economic and social rights beyond a traditional approach that focuses on civil and political rights? Has human rights and transitional justice practice become over professionalized, elitist and lost ground with the people they claim to represent? Has transitional justice lost the power to reach, engage and mobilize ordinary citizens?
We invite contributions addressing themes that may include but are certainly not limited to:
- The current state of human rights as a norm, practice or politics;
- Engagement, participation and mobilization in transitional justice;
- How to leverage women and youth agency in transitional justice as well as other actors such as refugees, IDPs and diaspora;
- The fight against impunity in an era of human rights retreat;
- Memorialization and archives and their significance in the fight against oblivion and impunity;
- Gains on criminal accountability following twenty years of domestic, hybrid and international tribunals and the ICC; can we lose what we have achieved?
- What could the transitional justice discipline offer to contexts of ongoing violations as a result of armed conflict or authoritarianism?
- What role can transitional justice have in the prevention and sustainability of peace?
- What is the relation between transitional justice, economic and social rights and the implementation of sustainable development goals?
- Challenges to human rights and transitional justice: non-state armed groups, violent extremism and weakly institutionalized states.
Finally, the Section Co-Chairs wish to encourage early career as well as established scholars to participate in ECPR General Conferences and Workshops. This section aims to place scholars at different stages of their career in conversation with each other, in order to encourage, inspire and challenge a new generation of political scientists.