Event Series: Transitional Justice (Winter 2015 – Spring 2016)

“Transitional Justice” refers to the social and legal reworking of the past of states characterized by serious human rights violations. The exchange between the international processes has increased significantly in the past two decades. The processing processes in Germany after the Second World War and after the end of the SED dictatorship are regarded as good examples worldwide. But does this really apply to all areas of Transitional Justice in Germany? Which instruments and mechanisms, such as lustration processes, criminal processing or compensation services, have been used worldwide, which experiences have been made? What challenges do we face today? What are the standards of human rights for transitional justice?

The event series took a look at these questions and took stock: 70 years of Transitional Justice trials, which began in Germany in 1945 and later became part of peace and democratization processes in Europe and the rest of the world. It also wanted to identify what we can learn from worldwide developments in Germany: for the continuing task of reviewing our past as well as for supporting transitional justice processes in our neighboring countries and in post-conflict situations around the world. This requires an exchange between science and practice from Germany and these countries.

The event series “Transitional Justice. Instruments – Experiencing Challenges “was a cooperation Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship, the German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR) and the Foundation EVZ (Stiftung Erinnerung Verantwortung Zukunft). Dr. Anja Mihr, Head of the Center on Governance through Human Rights was in charge of coordination.

Commemorate, Remember, Educate (January 12, 2016)

The importance of civil society initiatives, of memorial sites and educational institutions for the processing of injustice, commemoration, memory and education contribute to providing the victims of massive systematic injustice.

These forms of dealing with violence-impacted past serve at the same time to democratization by strengthening the humane orientation of a society and preventing a repetition of the happening.

To commemorate the sacrifice is to open spaces for the mourning of the dead and for empathy with the survivors of systematic injustice. To remember is to criticize the history of injustice critically and to wrest this history from oblivion or repression. To educate is to share knowledge and experiences and to reflect them again and again.

Organizer: Foundation EVZ (Stiftung Erinnerung Verantwortung Zukunft).

Prosecution of serious human rights violations (February 10, 2016)

The prosecution of serious violations of human rights following a social transformation is regarded as an essential element in the resolution of a defected injustice regime. But when do human rights require law enforcement? What kind of experience did Germany have with the criminal prosecution of the Nazi regime and the GDR? What is the relationship between national and international criminal justice? What are the possibilities for action if prosecution fails at the national level?

Organizer: German Institute for Human Rights

Compensation - Expectations, experiences and standards of collective and individual compensation programs after systematic injustice ( March 9, 2016)

There are numerous compensation programs for the victims of historical injustices worldwide. The event was devoted to the circumstances of the injustice, the groups of victims and the design of the compensation programs. Are the compensations paid individually or collectively? What are the experiences with compensation programs from the perspective of the victims, which from the point of view of the organizations entrusted with them? How have the claims for compensation programs – also under the influence of human rights – developed historically? From 2001 to 2007, the Foundation EVZ paid out funds of around EUR 4.4 billion to 1.66 million former Nazi forced laborers. As such, the EVZ is itself is a actor in compensation procedures.

Organizer: EVZ Foundation (Stiftung Erinnerung Verantwortung Zukunft)

Archives as actors of critical reflection (April 18, 2016)

Archives play an important role not only for historical researches. Archive material is also used in the critical reflection of past human rights violations, as they help to identify perpetrators of serious human rights violations and lead to their conviction. For the victims of state violence, the archives and their documentation of events often determine whether they find peace with their experiences and are rehabilitated.

With the comprehensive opening of the archives of the SED dictatorship on October 3, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany set standards. Overnight, almost all documents were made accessible to research, the media and those directly affected. In particular, the opening of the documents of the secret police and the review of persons in the public service are considered exemplary.

Organizer: Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship (Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur)

Never again! A Framework for Guarantees of Non-Recurrence (May 11, 2016)

One of the central functions of Transitional Justice is to prevent massive human rights violations in the future. Therefore, the special rapporteur appointed by the United Nations has submitted proposals to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in 2015, that include the elements necessary for a comprehensive strategy. These range from reforms of criminal law and the Constitution to the reform of the judicial system and the security sector to the improvement of the framework for civil society participation.

Organizer: German Institute for Human Rights (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte)