Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Discussing Victim Participation in Transitional Justice

In a thought-provoking presentation, Marit de Haan and Habib Nassar invited their audience to reflect on an often overlooked yet pivotal question: “Who do we talk about when we talk about victims?”. The session’s core theme delved deep into the need for dialogues not just about victims but with them, spotlighting their lived experiences, rights, and narratives.

Marit de Haan, a diligent PhD researcher from the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University, has dedicated her research journey to understanding the perceptions and justice needs of victims from the Chilean military dictatorship. Her expertise, coupled with her fervent interest in restorative justice, transitional justice, and victimology, offered listeners a profound perspective into the multifaceted nature of victimization.

Complementing her was Habib Nassar, the esteemed director of Policy and Research at Impunity Watch. Nassar’s rich experience working with victim groups and his in-depth knowledge on justice and accountability in Syria lent an additional layer of gravitas to the discussion.

The highlight of the presentation was the introduction to the Justice Visions podcast, an innovative endeavor focusing on victim participation in transitional justice. This particular episode dealt with the complexities surrounding the “victim” label. The topic is undeniably sensitive, especially given the potential risks of re-traumatization and tertiary victimization. The podcast sought to enlighten listeners on navigating research involving victims, and the possible emotional toll it can exact on researchers themselves.

Lending their voices to the podcast were a panel of distinguished experts:
Habib Nassar illuminated on his firsthand experiences and in-depth knowledge.

  • Rudina Jasini, an Oxford-trained legal scholar and lawyer, shared insights from the crossroads of academia and practice.
  • Simon Green, a Reader at Hull University, contributed with his academic expertise, and
  • Simon Robins from the University of York provided a research-based perspective on victim participation.

The session culminated in an interactive Q&A segment, where de Haan and Nassar engaged with attendees, addressing their queries and fostering a comprehensive discourse. The discussion took a poignant turn as the conversation shifted to the implications of restorative justice for victims of large-scale human rights violations.

Both de Haan and Nassar, with their profound understanding and empathy, underscored the importance of placing victims at the forefront of transitional justice processes. Their session was not just an academic discourse; it was a clarion call to re-envision how societies perceive, discuss, and engage with victims, emphasizing their agency and dignity.

To those in attendance, the session was a compelling reminder of the power of listening. It reinforced the belief that transitional justice, when grounded in true dialogue and understanding, can pave the way for healing, accountability, and a more just world.