Lunch Seminar with Christoph Sperfeldt

The Pursuit of Reparations: Promises and Practices in International Criminal Justice

Reparations to victims are often seen as a central aspect of a more victim-oriented approach to justice and peace in the wake of mass atrocities. In what can be described as a potentially significant shift in which international criminal justice is conceived, the International Criminal Court (ICC) became the first international criminal justice body to which individual victims of mass crimes could submit claims for reparations. Other internationalised criminal courts now also consider reparations for victims, most notably the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Yet, the role and extent of reparations in international criminal justice have remained contested among scholars, practitioners and activists, and considerable uncertainty surrounds how to translate the promise of reparations into practice. In this lunch seminar, I trace the process through which the idea of reparations for victims has taken shape through legalisation and materialisation in different mass atrocity settings. As a result of contested legalisation, competing visions for reparations have become embedded in the legal frameworks and institutional architecture of international(-ised) criminal courts. When coming into contact with the different social and cultural contexts of the first cases before the ICC and the ECCC – the DR Congo and Cambodia – actors at and around the courts are torn between legal and social imperatives and have developed various practices to manage these tensions. Building on ethnographic fieldwork in The Hague and Phnom Penh, I examine these practices and conclude with some observations about the unsettled nature of reparations in international criminal justice.

All interested are welcome to attend. Registration is not necessary.