Restorative Justice Amidst Gross Human Rights Violations: Insights from Dr. Terry Savage

In a powerful and evocative presentation, Dr. Terry Savage of the University of Leuven delved deep into the complexities of addressing the aftermath of gross human rights violations. An accomplished researcher, educator, and practitioner, Dr. Savage brought his diverse experiences to shed light on a pressing issue: how can restorative justice be applied to help victims of heinous acts regain their agency and dignity?

Titled “Eliciting Voices Amidst Devastation: The Northern Iraq Context”, Dr. Savage’s discourse took attendees through the harrowing experiences of women in northern Iraq. These women, who had returned after facing abduction and sexual enslavement under Daesh, epitomized the challenges of restoring justice in an environment marred by unspeakable horrors. Their plight, Dr. Savage argued, was not just about physical pain but also the erosion of their very essence as human beings. Acts of gross human rights violation deprive victims of their dignity, drain their energies, and strip away the sanctity of life, making daily struggles an insurmountable challenge.

Using the situations faced by these women as a lens, Dr. Savage’s presentation ventured into the realm of potential solutions – ones that are compassionate, effective, and ultimately restorative. A significant part of the presentation was dedicated to introducing the method of Elicitive Action Research, a novel approach designed specifically for research involving victims of traumatic events.

What sets Elicitive Action Research apart is its collaborative nature. Instead of approaching victims as mere subjects of study, this methodology empowers them to take an active role in the research process. By co-creating a platform with the victims, it seeks to uncover their current needs and interests resulting from the traumatic events they endured. The method ensures that victims’ voices are not just heard but are instrumental in shaping, guiding, and implementing initiatives.

Dr. Savage, with his extensive background, including his work with the UN in Nepal and collaborations in northern Iraq, emphasized the transformative potential of this approach. When victims are at the forefront, leading the efforts to address their issues, the solutions are not only more effective but also inherently just.

The crux of Dr. Savage’s presentation revolved around the idea of providing victims with a measure of satisfaction – a recognition of their legitimate needs for justice. This, he argued, can only be achieved when the process is both restorative and transformative. Restorative, in the sense that it seeks to heal wounds and provide closure, and transformative, as it empowers victims to drive change.

Concluding his discourse, Dr. Terry Savage left the audience with a crucial message: in the face of grave injustices, the path to healing and justice lies in collaboration, empathy, and empowering those affected. His research and insights offer a beacon of hope for countless victims globally and underscore the need for innovative, victim-centered approaches in restorative justice.