'Victims of' human rights abuses in transitional justice: Hierarchies, perpetrators and the struggle for peace

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This article critically examines how multifarious levels of division among victim constituencies have shaped legal and non-legal transitional justice responses to human rights violations. It submits that this division has caused such responses to operate in accordance with the notion of being a ‘victim of’ rather than that of simply being a victim of human rights abuse per se. Expanding from this position, it proffers the theoretical viewpoint that transitional justice responses are premised on the nuanced typologies of being a victim of a particular perpetrator or being a victim of a particular harm or being a victim of particular circumstances. When determining which victims to offer redress to, which victimisers to punish and which harms to repair, these approaches have by necessity fallen back on hierarchies that favour certain victims and harms above others. This process of hierarchisation is multi-layered and involves interplay between ideological, gendered and class-based factors that place certain victims outside the reach of transitional justice discourses and processes. The exclusion of these victims, the article argues,creates an invisibilised category of victims of the peace that fail to benefit from transitional justice processes that struggle to deal with the complexity their situations present.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalThe International Journal of Human Rights
Early online date11 Jul 2018
Publication statusEarly online date - 11 Jul 2018


  • Transitional Justice
  • Victims
  • reparations
  • Human Rights Abuses


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