States of Impunity goes live!

The first of our four part series is now available at Open Security.

In the inaugural section Politics of Impunity (available now), we invite you to read contributions from Baltasar Garzón (Civil resistance and the geopolitics of impunity), Kimberly Theidon (First do no harm: enforced sterilizations and gender justice in Peru), Martha Cecilia-Dietrich (When truth goes to court: the shifting role of testimonies in post-conflict Peru), Andreas Schueller (Bringing CIA torture to justice), and Susan Kemp (Guatemala prosecutes a president, but progress falters).

In contexts of impunity, where conflict, state repression and the colossal challenge of taking on powerful perpetrators offer no hope for transition, how can we expect accountability to be realized? In this four-part series, a range of scholars and practitioners share their insights on the internal workings of power, truth and justice, in situations where forecasting is difficult, and conflicts are ongoing. What does justice look like outside of state-endorsed institutional processes, be they national or international? How do these truth-seeking initiatives challenge hegemonic narratives? Contributors examine contexts which tackle, head on, obstacles of impunity and denial, looking to understand how silenced but shared experiences of violence are transformed into public knowledge and acknowledgement. How and when does the fight against impunity open up an arena for action and change?

Read our full editorial here 

Stay tuned as we unveil the rest of our four interrelated, but distinct thematic sections dealing with the subject of impunity, and with contributions from eminent and outspoken voices. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter for instant updates of our series as it happens!

Best Wishes,

Truth & Impunity Team

States of Impunity: In Collaboration with Open Democracy

Following a successful workshop and conference, we are very pleased to announce an upcoming collaborative news series, ‘States of Impunity’, due to launch shortly on Open Democracy. With contributions from anthropologists, legal practitioners, human rights activists, writers, artists and scholars, our interdisciplinary discussion builds momentum from what was a truly lively exchange in London. Stay tuned for more updates and our long awaited launch, coming to you in just two weeks.

Contributors to the series include leading legal scholars and practitioners such as Professor Richard Falk, jurist Baltasar Garzón, Dr Susan Kemp, and activist and lawyer Shadi Sadr; scholars Professor Kimberly Theidon, Professor Mariella Pandolfi, Professor Laurence McFalls, and Dr Chowra Makaremi just to name a few… Please stay connected via our twitter page for regular launch update details, including our full contributor list, while we make our final editing tweaks to this exciting new series.

Kind Regards for now, Truth and Impunity Team

Outline for the series

In contexts of impunity, where conflict, state repression, and the colossal challenge of taking on powerful perpetrators, including states, offer no hope for transition, can we expect accountability to be realized from above? This series gives a voice to civil society movements, jurists and writers who work to create their own arenas for justice and change in the absence of structural and institutional transitions and support. In an age where national laws are constituted to forge spaces of exemption for state crimes before and while they happen, as in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in India and the National Security Services Bill (NSS) in South Sudan, what can we hope to see from international organisations such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in the face of such state violence? Where do victims look to for alternative models when there are no institutional channels that are willing to accept their cause? What does justice look like outside of state-endorsed institutional processes, be they national or international? How do these truth seeking initiatives challenge hegemonic narratives? Furthermore, how does the international political climate aid and hinder strategies of truth recording, as in, most notably the ongoing case of Palestine?

This series examines contexts which tackle, head on, obstacles of impunity and denial, looking to understand how silenced but shared experiences of violence are transformed into public knowledge and acknowledgement. Truth seeking movements often develop into three forms action: civil society uprisings, as in Mexico and Hong Kong, «Peoples tribunals» that adopt and subvert the language of law and the very same institutions which reject or ignore their cause, and documentation projects that compile material evidence out of intangible traumas. Throughout the course of this ongoing conversation, we will be considering the cases that go unaccounted for and relatively unreported, as with stateless and disenfranchised groups like the Roma, and exiled victims enacting change from outside as is the case in Iran or Sri-Lanka, and the spectrum of complexity in current unfolding violence in Syria, Iraq, Mexico.

This will be a conversation that builds on an international workshop on «Truth telling and truth seeking in contexts of impunity, supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and TEPSIS Research Programme, that took place between October 23rd and 24th 2014 in London.

“Truth telling and truth seeking in contexts of impunity”

Thursday 23 & Friday 24 October 2014

This event is organized around a two-day workshop, of which key elements will be made available in a public conference.

In studies of large-scale violence, one area remains under explored: investigations in contexts of impunity, where the unchanged political and social order engendered by conflict or state repression, and the high-ranking position of past perpetrators offer no conceivable possibility of transition. While on-site research on such past episodes is perilous such as in Indonesia or in Colombia, or impossible, such as in Iran, this does not exclude empirical studies based on oral history and processes of truth telling.

The study of violence in contexts of impunity invites us to pay closer attention to existing projects of truth telling and truth seeking carried out by civil societies. These projects are initiated outside of state-endorsed institutional processes, be they national or international, and challenge hegemonic narratives. They mainly comprise of two sets of interrelated practices: documentation projects and databases on human rights violations, and international peoples’ tribunals (modeled upon the 1960’s Russell Tribunal on American War Crimes in Vietnam). Such are the cases, amongst many others, of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir, the International People’s Tribunal on State Crimes in Iran, or the Centro Nacional de Memoria Historica documenting killings, disappearances and abduction in Colombia.

Truth telling in contexts of impunity provides access to data, informants, and empirical material. It is also an enlightening object of study for understanding how silenced but shared experiences of violence are transformed into public knowledge and acknowledgement, outside the frames of sovereignty, legitimacy and legality that organize political life at the national and international level. Both scholars of law and the social sciences have  worked along various processes of truth telling, and produced analyses of such initiatives. This conference aims to examine these case studies (1)  in a comparative perspective, and (2) within a dialogue with social scientists involved in documentation databases and projects, and legal scholars who have been participating in, or studying the phenomena of civil society tribunals. It will, for the very first time bring together scholars involved with these issues from the five continents.

Held at Gresham College and University College London

Kindly sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the TEPSIS Research Program on Historical and Social Sciences of Politics (EHESS and CNRS), Paris.

Organization Committee:

Chowra Makaremi (CNRS Paris), Shokoufeh Sakhi (York University), Pardis Shafafi (University of St Andrews), Maral Shafafy (University of Nottingham)

For more information, please contact Chowra Makaremi (chowra.makaremi@ehess.fr), or Pardis Shafafi (ps454@st-andrews.ac.uk)

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