Catering to Conflict-Affected Communities? The Trajectory and Relevance of Judicial and Non-Judicial Measures in Colombia

Led by Bård Drange

Apr 2019 –

In civil wars, some of the people most affected by conflict live in areas of limited statehood – areas which tend to be peripheral and governed, contested and/or targeted by various armed groups.

In civil wars, some of the people most affected by conflict live in areas of limited statehood – areas which tend to be peripheral and governed, contested and/or targeted by various armed groups. In these areas, civilians suffer from specific victimizing events like displacements and forced recruitment, forced disappearances and killings, and torture and sexual violence.

They can also live under the threat of violence, mobility restrictions and other types of repression by armed groups. To address the plight of, amongst others, these conflict-affected people and their communities, states sometimes device judicial measures such as trials, truth commissions, reparations and amnesties. The purpose of such judicial measures is typically to seek justice for conflict-related wrongdoings. Nonetheless, scholars working on such judicial measures implemented during and after armed conflict remain sceptical about both the intentions behind them as well as the impact these measures may have.

In this thesis, therefore, I ask: What are the prospects of judicial measures, implemented during or after conflict, to address those populations most affected by armed conflict?

To answer this question, I follow the trajectory of judicial measures from the during-conflict to the post-conflict period and how these measures in turn cater to the needs of people in conflict-affected communities. While much research focuses on various categories of victim-survivors and perpetrators, less attention has been paid to the interaction between top-down judicial measures and dynamics and needs in conflict-affected communities. To understand the prospects of judicial measures requires an analysis of what factors shape the judicial measures in the first place and what political interests that drive them. This facilitates an analysis of what contributions judicial measures actually have for those populations that are supposed to benefit from them. Together, these national and local-level analyses provide a more coherent framework for understanding the contributions of top-down measures as states themselves are increasingly expected to address human rights abuses committed during armed conflict. In particular, Colombia provides a valuable case in which to study how efforts to address human rights abuses actually contribute to people's sense of justice. The 2016 peace agreement, signed between the Government of Colombia and the FARC in 2016, has been praised as ambitious and sophisticated, which may also make it a source of inspiration for other countries.

To examine the relevance of judicial and non-judicial measures for people in conflict-affected communities, I conduct a case study of Mesetas. Mesetas is a conflict-affected community along the Eastern Mountain Range in Colombia. Previously a FARC stronghold, it now hosts, in the post-agreement period in Colombia, two reincorporation spaces for FARC ex-combatants. Fieldwork has been conducted in three rounds: One on-site and preliminary round in February 2020, digital fieldwork in January-February 2021 as well as on-site fieldwork again in September-October 2021. The PhD is to-be-completed by December 2022.

PhD project at the Department of Political Science, University of Oslo.

  • PRIO Supervisor: Helga Malmin Binningsø
  • UiO Supervisor: Jana Krause

The project is a part of the RCN/NORGLOBAL financed project "All is Fair in Law and War: Judicial Behavior in Conflict-affected Societies".

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