Historical Injustices, Reparations and International Law

Completed in October 2016

Since the end of World War II, claims for reparations for historical injustices (including the Holocaust, the oppression of indigenous peoples in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, as well as the enduring legacy of slavery and institutional racism among African Americans) have become a central element of national politics and international diplomacy.

Investigating the Relevance of International Law

This project, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), investigated the relevance of international law in relation to such demands for reparation.

While the topic of reparation has increasingly become the focus of scholarly interest, a holistic approach to this issue, combining theoretical notions of international law with considerations of practicality and morality, is still largely missing in the literature. This project intended to fill this gap by providing a comprehensive assessment of victims’ reparations claims in light of recent developments in international law. At the same time, it paid special attention to the legal and moral dilemmas that may arise in the process of shaping and implementing reparations programmes – especially in situations of transition from civil war and dictatorship towards peace and democracy.

Research Team

This research project was carried out by Frank Haldemann and Rachelle Kouassi.

OUTPUT

Conducted between 2011 and 2016, this research has involved two PhD projects: one of a normative nature, concerned with the legal foundations and limits of a right to reparation; the other more empirical, exploring the practice of reparation programmes. The results of the research have been published in a number of scientific articles, contributions and book chapters (see below).

Moreover, a number of workshops and conferences were organized to enable a wider scholarly debate related to the various research topics covered by the project.

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Anh-Thu Vo and Bettina Roska at the entrance of Villa Moynier News

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Anh-Thu Vo and Bettina Rosk pleading online during the oral rounds of the Nelson Mandela Moot Court News

Oral Rounds of the Mandela Moot Court: Our Team Delves into Complex Human Rights Issues related to COVID-19

20 July 2021

After passing the first round and qualifying for the competition’s final stage, Anh-Thu Vo and Bettina Roska – enrolled in our Master of Advanced Studies in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law – participated in the oral rounds of the Nelson Mandela Moot Court.

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Al Mahdi case: ICC Trial Chamber VIII issues reparations order, 17 August 2017 Short Course

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This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, reviews the origins of international criminal law, its relationship with the international legal order including the UN Security Council and its coexistence with national justice institutions. The scope of international crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression – is considered alongside initiatives to expand or add to these categories.

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