AHRC-NSF MOU: Alternative Accountabilities for Past Human Rights Abuses

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Area Studies

Abstract

Countries around the world have crafted innovative strategies to hold perpetrators accountable for past human rights violations. In fact, "transitional justice" mechanisms have become the major policy innovation of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century to reduce human rights violations and strengthen democracy. The practice of transitional justice has spawned a field of study of great interest to policy makers, scholars, and civil society. To date, however, systematic and cross-national studies in this field have focused on three main mechanisms—criminal trials, truth commissions, and amnesties—and their impact on human rights and democracy. Many other mechanisms, however, are widely used. Scholars, policy makers, and advocates interested in the full impact of transitional justice mechanisms, therefore, lack the research and analysis of the complete array of those mechanisms and their effects.
The proposed AHRC-NSF Collaborative Funding Opportunity between Leigh Payne (University of Oxford) and Kathryn Sikkink (University of Minnesota) aims to fill that void by generating an empirically-tested theory concerning the impact of a full range of transitional justice mechanisms. To this end, they intend to add to their existing transitional justice database currently uncharted "alternative accountabilities" (i.e., civil trials, lustration and vetting, reparations, and customary justice). Because alternative accountabilities are often adopted to deal with the massive atrocities of civil war and the resulting social divisions, the PIs will also examine their impact on peace, in addition to democracy and human rights outcomes analysed in their previous work. The project will provide the first database that will facilitate research on the latest scholarly and policy question: do alternative accountabilities substitute or complement other transitional justice mechanisms in the effort to strengthen human rights protections, democracy, and peace?
Thllaborators' prior research qualifies them to undertake this project. In the last half-decade, the PIs individually built the two most complete databases on transitional justice. Subsequently, and with support from AHRC-NSF, they began constructing a new, large-N database of the three main transitional justice mechanisms to determine what aspects of trials, truth commissions, and amnesties contribute to, or impede, improvements in human rights and democracy. The PIs are releasing preliminary findings from this research in their current scholarly work, as well as in presentations in policy form. They have also created a fully accessible and searchable database (available online in September 2012).
This proposed project aims to extend this earlier research, and to address emerging criticisms concerning the appropriateness, desirability, and effectiveness of criminal justice. While the PIs have found that trials are central to improvements in democracy and human rights, they have not found that countries necessarily follow a single transitional justice pathway. This leads them to probe the particular roles alternative accountabilities play around the world in advancing or constraining human rights, democracy, and peace outcomes. A set of theoretical arguments propose when, why, and how these alternative accountabilities are likely to improve outcomes either in isolation or in combination with trials and amnesties. As yet, no systematic data or research exists to answer these questions. The PIs' prior analysis leads them to hypothesize that, despite hopeful claims now circulating among area specialists, alternative accountabilities are likely to have a more positive impact on the specific outcomes of human rights, democracy, and peace when combined with prosecutions. The project will thus allow the PIs to further test their own and others' approaches to transitional justice, thereby contributing to scholarly debate and also to producing better information on transitional justice mechanisms and outcomes to contribute to policy and advocacy in post-conflict and post-authoritarian situations.
The PIs have requested $307,129 from the NSF and £349,844 from the AHRC to conduct two years (September 1, 2012 to August 31, 2014) of research on, and analysis of, alternative accountabilities. The project's intellectual merit involves developing a new theory of when, how, and why these mechanisms contribute to human rights, democracy, and peace that the researchers will produce for scholarly publication. The project's broader impact includes: academic and professional development for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows; data sharing to further scholarly, policy, and advocacy research through the online access of a complete database on all transitional justice mechanisms in 120 countries from 1970 to the present; and the preparation and presentation of policy recommendations.
 
Description We have found that four factors explain the capacity of countries to overcome impunity for past human rights violations in dictatorships and armed conflict: 1) international pressure, 2) domestic judicial leadership; 3) civil society demand for justice, and 4) weak veto players. Because not all factors are present or absent, there is variation in the type of overcoming accountability from the highest level of impunity, to accountability impasse, to creative circumvention of amnesty laws, to accountability. The new 'alternative accountability' mechanisms (e.g., reparations, truth commissions, customary justice, and civil trials) have not replaced the traditional ones, but supplemented them. These mechanisms remain underutilized compared with trials and amnesties.
Exploitation Route Our findings suggest that there is more room in the policy world to allow for amnesty laws since they provide leverage to states to end conflict and do not block accountability for gross human rights violations. We have already presented these findings to intrigued policy makers and practitioners. In our discussions with them they requested additional discussion of the impact of amnesties in armed conflict and also extending accountability efforts to non-state (business) actors complicit in past human rights violations. We are working on Follow-On -Funding for those projects.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://transitionaljusticedata.com/
 
Description Our findings have been used in a discussion with the UN Mediation Unit, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, the International Center for Transitional Justice, and other human rights non-governmental organizations about the international norm against amnesty laws. Some of these practitioners have felt strongly that our findings could be used directly in their negotiations with armed groups to end conflict.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Closed discussion with members of the Argentine Foreign Office about the different models of corporate accountability of around the world and the leading role of Argentina in the field. In addition, the PI and the Foreign Office partnered to hold a confer
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
 
Description Closed discussion with members of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies, CELS, in Buenos Aires about research strategies to advance civil and criminal trials related to business complicity.
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
 
Description BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Funding ID SG122268 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2014
 
Description Foundation to Promote Open Society
Amount $24,000 (USD)
Funding ID OR2014-17068 
Organisation Open Society Foundation, New York 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 11/2014 
End 03/2015
 
Description Institute of International Education
Amount $10,000 (USD)
Organisation Ford Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 11/2014 
End 11/2014
 
Description John Fell Oxford University Press Research Fund
Amount £35,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 133/106 
Organisation University of Oxford 
Department John Fell Fund
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2014 
End 10/2015
 
Description John Fell Oxford University Press Research Fund
Amount £23,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 121/482 
Organisation University of Oxford 
Department John Fell Fund
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2013 
End 01/2014
 
Title Corporate Accountability and Transitional Justice Database 
Description The Corporate Accountability and Transitional justice database was created by joint efforts from the University of Oxford, ANDHES (NGO based in Argentina) and Dejusticia (NGO based in Colombia). It aims to track judicial and non-judicial responses to business complicity in human rights violations during dictatorships and armed conflicts throughout the world. It includes the so-called "industrialist" and slave labor cases in Nazi Germany up to the conflict in Colombia. In addition to mapping where accountability has occurred, the project further considers the type of accountability, and the outcome of those accountability processes for victims. The unit of analysis is business involvement in human rights violations during dictatorships and/or armed conflict. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The CATJ has been used by civil society to support policy proposals and strategic litigation. For example, in Colombia we worked together with Dejusticia, a local NGO, to produce a policy paper that uses the data in the CATJ to present a set of recommendations on how the truth commission should deal with the issue of business complicity with human rights violations committed during the armed conflict. In Argentina the data has been used by ANDHES to identify cases for strategic litigation. 
URL https://ahra.web.ox.ac.uk/corporate-accountability-transitional-justice
 
Title Transitional Justice Research Collaborative 
Description Transitionaljusticedata.com is meant for scholars and practitioners who wish to examine the causes and impacts of mechanisms that address human rights violations. Comprised of principal researchers from University of Oxford, University of Minnesota and Harvard University, the Transitional Justice Research Collaborative presents data on three primary transitional justice mechanisms-human rights prosecutions, truth commissions, and amnesties-for 109 democratic transitions in 86 countries around the world, from 1970-2012. While by no means complete, the dataset includes the most comprehensive single collection of information on these mechanisms for countries around the world. With the support of the National Science Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the data were collected from a variety of sources by more than 25 coders over a three-year period. As we complete our data collection and data processing activities, additional data will be made publically available including new data on human rights prosecutions, vetting and reparations. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The website hosting the database https://transitionaljusticedata.com/ is open to the public and any researcher to use and browse. 
URL https://transitionaljusticedata.com/
 
Description Collaboration with ANDHES 
Organisation Foundation Lawyers and lawyers of the Argentine Northwest in Human Rights and Social Studies
PI Contribution My research team and I at the University of Oxford contributed to the project with decisions about methodological approaches, data collection and data analysis; as well as giving visibility to the work of our partners and to the events and outputs from the collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners organised events, participated in data collection and analysis, are involved in litigating cases and identified relevant stakeholders
Impact policy papers, academic publications, workshops, conferences
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with CELS in Argentina 
Organisation Center for Legal and Social Studies
PI Contribution My research team at the University of Oxford has contributed to the design of research methodologies to investigate cases of business complicity with the dictatorship in Argentina; as well as coordinating public events to give visibility to the collaborative research and to the specific work that CELS does through strategic litigation of cases of complicity
Collaborator Contribution CELS has been a leader in Argentina bringing economic actors to account before domestic courts, for their role in past atrocities during the dictatorship. They have litigated the cases and opened spaces in Argentina to present our research and increase its impact
Impact Conferences; policy briefs
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with Dejusticia in Colombia 
Organisation Dejusticia - Law, Justice and Society Studies Center
PI Contribution My team and I at the University of Oxford contributed our knowledge on methodological approaches to data collection to create databases of human rights violations by economic actors. We also participated in the design of the coding manual and instructions, trained coders and practitioners from Dejusticia to use coding tools that would facilitate data collection and data analysis. We also participated in the coding process. We actively participated writing a policy paper on the role of the truth commission in Colombia to investigate business complicity with the armed conflict.. We helped to give visibility to the findings of the project
Collaborator Contribution They participated in the data collection process, identifying the best sources of data to code and designing the coding manual. They participated in data analysis and writing the policy on the role of the truth commission in Colombia to investigate business complicity with the armed conflict. They organised the launch of this report as well as other events and meetings with relevant stakeholders in Colombia and in the Inter-American System of Human Rights.
Impact policy papers, conferences, workshops
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with the University of Minnesota 
Organisation University of Minnesota
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Professors Leigh Payne (University of Oxford) and Kathryn Sikkink (University of Minnesota) have been awarded a second collaborative grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) (Grant No. AH/K502856/1) and the National Science Foundation (USA) (Grant No. 1228519) in the summer of 2012 for a research project on Alternative Accountabilities for Past Human Rights Abuses. This collaborative project will add "alternative accountabilities" (i.e., civil trials, lustration and vetting, reparations, and customary justice) to the existing database of trials, truth commissions, and amnesties. Because alternative accountabilities are often adopted to deal with the massive atrocities of civil war and the resulting social divisions, the PIs will examine their impact on peace, in addition to the democracy and human rights outcomes analysed in their previous work. The project will provide the first database that will facilitate research on the latest scholarly and policy question: do alternative accountabilities substitute or complement other transitional justice mechanisms in the effort to strengthen human rights protections, democracy, and peace? The new project will allow the PIs to study the particular roles alternative accountabilities play around the world in advancing or constraining human rights, democracy, and peace outcomes, as well as if they do so in isolation or in combination with trials, truth commissions, and amnesties.
Collaborator Contribution Professors Leigh Payne (University of Oxford) and Kathryn Sikkink (University of Minnesota) have been awarded a second collaborative grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) (Grant No. AH/K502856/1) and the National Science Foundation (USA) (Grant No. 1228519) in the summer of 2012 for a research project on Alternative Accountabilities for Past Human Rights Abuses. This collaborative project will add "alternative accountabilities" (i.e., civil trials, lustration and vetting, reparations, and customary justice) to the existing database of trials, truth commissions, and amnesties. Because alternative accountabilities are often adopted to deal with the massive atrocities of civil war and the resulting social divisions, the PIs will examine their impact on peace, in addition to the democracy and human rights outcomes analysed in their previous work. The project will provide the first database that will facilitate research on the latest scholarly and policy question: do alternative accountabilities substitute or complement other transitional justice mechanisms in the effort to strengthen human rights protections, democracy, and peace? The new project will allow the PIs to study the particular roles alternative accountabilities play around the world in advancing or constraining human rights, democracy, and peace outcomes, as well as if they do so in isolation or in combination with trials, truth commissions, and amnesties.
Impact Project is still ongoing
Start Year 2012
 
Description Presentation by Francesca Lessa and Leigh Payne on "Innovations in Transitional Justice," Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Santiago de Chile, 28 July 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Our talk raised many questions and triggered an interesting discussion

No impact yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation by Francesca Lessa on Blood Money? Reparations for Past Human Rights Violations in Latin America, Law and Society Association 2014 Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, USA, 30 May 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Lively debate after the panel.

No impact yet.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2014
 
Description Presentation by Gabriel Pereira and Leigh Payne on "Transitional Justice and Corporate Complicity in Argentina in Comparative Perspective,| FLACSO-ISA, Buenos Aires, 23-25 July 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Many interesting questions were raised and an interesting debate ensued.

No impact yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation by Leigh Payne on "Overcoming Impunity: When do Transitional Justice Pathways Lead to Accountability?" Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University Law School, 14 February 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact A lively and interesting debate took place after the presentation.

No impact yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation by Leigh Payne on "Overcoming Impunity: When transitional justice pathways lead to accountability and when they do not," Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (IBEI), 6 March 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Interesting subsequent discussion and questions asked.

No impact yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Professor Leigh Payne delivers inaugural lecture on Overcoming Impunity: Pathways to Accountability in Latin America, at the residence of the British Embassy, Santiago de Chile, 29 July 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A debate ensued after the inaugural lecture

No impact yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.lac.ox.ac.uk/professor-payne-delivers-inaugural-oxford-alumni-chile-tertulia-2014-residen...
 
Description Talk by Francesca Lessa on Desafiando con la ley a las leyes de amnistía. Los sinuosos caminos del reconocimiento de las víctimas, at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, 16ª session of the workshop on "Law and Justice", 22 April 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk raised many questions from the audience.

No impact yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk by Francesca Lessa on the panel "La justicia frente a crímenes contra la humanidad. Experiencias comparadas" held at the Universidad de Palermo, Faculty of Law, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 22 July 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact A lively discussion took place during the panel event.

No impact yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk by Leigh Payne with Tricia D. Olsen and Gabriel Pereira on Understanding Corporate Complicity in Past Political Violence: A Preliminary Analysis, Human Rights and Change conference, International Studies Association, Istanbul, 16-18 June, 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Many questions were raised as a result of the presentation.

No impact yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014