I have come to a decision of adding a new category on my blog where I will be sharing with you some of the work that I have done revolving around social justice. By this means, I will be sharing with you some of my school papers that I have written and while I do not consider myself an expert, the opinions expressed in all of my posts are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of my employer, organization, committee or other group or individual. Combatting and ending impunity has been one of my life-long goals thus, in pursuit of international justice for perpetrators of horrific crimes, this post will explore the different forms of impunity relative to genocide, civil war, and other conflicts.
Impunity is defined as the lack of punishment or the freedom from liability or accountability from consequences of actions. While reading the scholarly article, Impunity and the Inner History of Life, Dr. Paz Rojas B. distinguishes two forms of impunity. The first form of impunity Paz (1999) distinguishes, is the impunity for the authors that violate civil and political rights; particularly the right to life. The second form is the impunity for serious violations of economic, social, and cultural rights. According to Paz (1999), impunity is the new aggression added to the crimes against humanity. Comprised of traumatic experiences of pain, loss, suffering, mourning, and despair, impunity alone violates much of our highest values. In addition, it has destroyed many beliefs and principles while altering the norms and regulations humans constructed during the course of human civilization (Paz 1999).
At the core of impunity is crime. Crime in general is always dealt with a victim and a perpetrator. According to Paz (1999), the crime is committed at a given place, at a specific time, in a precise geographical location on a given date (Paz 1999). Much of this is engraved within the deepest self of the victims who have endured the crime, however, all of this remain in silence. As it penetrates the minds of the victims and creates an inexorable reality for them (Paz 1999), impunity has helped many of the perpetrators relative to being completely free from legal sanctions and accountability for their illegal actions. With that, it increases a bi-polarization between the victim and the victimizer where there is an established perverse relationship. As extreme violence becomes the negation of life, many of the victims of crimes against humanity have indicated the feeling of helplessness in front of those who held much power and strength over them in attempt to completely destroy them. Thus, the duality of crime and impunity have altered much of the victim’s subjective sense.
Furthermore, in the academic article, Victimization, Survival and the Impunity of Forced exile, Frank Affitto encompasses his study around the Rwandan genocide. The case study of the Rwandan genocide examines not only the events that occurred during the genocide but also focuses on post-victimization reflection of his respondents (Afflitto 2000). From the aftermath of genocide to impunity granted for the perpetrators, victimization is perceived to further continue through the course of the victims’ lives. With the lack of prosecution, weak judiciaries, and the inability for justice to occur, these have been identified as substantial mechanisms of impunity. The violence itself and the continuing threat of violence are also major impediments on the road to justice (Afflitto 2000). As Afflitto (2000) exemplifies in his study, many survivors of genocide no longer identify with their culture as much of it is stripped away due to impunity. With that, impunity has helped perpetrators manipulate and in-still fear in the minds of the victims and survivors of genocide.
As an illustration, Afflitto (2000) provides a broader contextual view of impunity. This broader context of impunity is shaped by two major factors. The first contextual view is exemplified through the narrative of Fleur; a victim of the Rwandan genocide. The knowledge Fleur has of how machetes were stockpiled by the pre-genocide regime and the rational and calculated nature of the genocide, overwhelms much of her justice expectations. The second and most prominent contextual factor is represented in the identities of many genocidaires. Unlike many aspects of modern state-directed warfare, killers had a name and face in which many were known by the victims. The Rwandan genocide was almost entirely carried out in person-to-person situations where perpetrators not only refused to hide their personal identities, but actually flaunted them (Afflitto 2000).
As for combatting crimes against humanity and combatting impunity, transitional government must choose to confront the past or attempt to draw a thick line between the past and the present (Roht-Arriaza 1995). There are measures to combat impunity which includes investigations, prosecutions, purges, commemorations, and compensations, however, much of these measures depends on how widespread and severe the repression was at the beginning. The basic paradox of this concept is that the measures must be put into effect quickly, yet these effective measures against impunity require either overhauling of existing institutions or the creation of new ones (Roht-Arriaza 1995). Nonetheless, impunity is not easily defeated nor is justice easily won thus, it is about time to change that.
Afflitto, Frank M. 2000. “Victimization, Survival and the Impunity of Forced Exile: A Case Study from the Rwandan Genocide.” Crime, Law and Social Change 34(1):77 (http:// ezproxy.uwindsor.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1308105128? accountid=14789).
Paz, R. 1999. “Impunity and the Inner History of Life. Social Justice.” 26(4 (78)), 13-30 (http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.uwindsor.ca/stable/29767173 )
Roht-Arriaza, N. 1995. “Impunity and Human Rights in International Law and Practice.” The American Journal of International Law 90(1):173. Retrieved February 17, 2017 (http://www.ebrary.com).
*Disclaimer: Featured photo retrieved from Google Images.