The question of how to serve justice, facilitate peaceful transitions and empower victims of past large-scale abuses is about as old as the field of transitional justice itself. Increasingly, academics and practitioners are turning to participatory approaches as a promising way to make advances regarding these issues. An oft-cited benefit of victim participation in TJ processes is that it allegedly increases the legitimacy of these processes by rendering them more locally relevant, and that it empowers participants.
However, little is known about how to organize this participation in practice or under which conditions alleged benefits (for individual victims-participants or for society at large) are likely to materialize. As a result, participation is often organized in an 'add-victims-and-stir' way, with little critical reflection about potential unforeseen or long-term effects. Because TJ processes often face significant practical, financial and political constraints, it is crucial to better understand how participatory approaches can be developed in ways that contribute to a positive and lasting legacy.
In a new research project, Tine Destrooper sets out to conduct a systematic analysis of the scope, nature, modalities and role of victim participation in transitional justice processes, to study empirically and comparatively how participation shapes victims' experience and understandings of justice and their rights, and to develop a critical victimology framework and establish how this framework can be used to conceptualize victim participation in ways that contribute to TJ's goal of engendering just, stable and secure societies.
Tine Destrooper is the director of the Flemish Peace Institute and an associate professor at Ghent University. Previously she was the managing director of, and a Scholar in Residence at, the Center for Human rights and Global Justice at NYU’s School of Law and a fellow at the Wissenschaft-Kolleg, Berlin. Earlier, she also worked as a postdoctoral researcher with the Law and Development research group at the University of Antwerp and at the Center for Governance and Global Affairs at the University of Leiden. She obtained her PhD at the European University Institute, Florence, where she studied the relationship between armed conflict, social movements, and gender. She holds a master’s degree in Conflict, Security and Development from University College London and an undergraduate degree from the University of Leuven. She worked for several government agencies in Belgium, as well as for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Her work has been published in, among others, Human Rights Quarterly, the Journal of Human Rights Practice, and Development in Practice.