Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) is an inter-disciplinary network of more than 100 Oxford staff and students working broadly on issues of transition in societies recovering from mass conflict and/or repressive rule. OTJR is dedicated to producing high-quality scholarship that connects intimately to practical and policy questions in transitional justice, focusing on the following themes: Prosecutions, Truth Commissions, Local and traditional practices, Compensation and reparations, Theoretical and philosophical debates in transitional justice, Institutional reform and Archives of tribunal and other transitional justice materials. The OTJR seminar programme is held weekly and reflects these aims.
Invoking 'Transitional Justice' without a Transition: Reflections on Sri Lanka's Transitional Justice Programme, 2015-2019
Kumaravadivel Guruparan gives a talk as part of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) Seminar Series. In 2015, Sri Lankan witnessed regime change that removed President Mahinda Rajapaksa from power. Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President who led the war against the LTTE to its finish in 2009, a war in which thousands of Tamil civilians were killed. The regime change in 2015 was characterised by many of its supporters as a change that would deliver transitional justice. The new regime also employed the language of transitional justice, particularly in the UN Human Rights Council, in its attempt to divert calls for international accountability and justice for crimes committed during the war. The regime was short lived and fell in 2019 returning another Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapakasa the war-time Defence Secretary as President. This talk will seek to explore the politics of identifying the regime change in 2015 as a transitional moment in Sri Lanka. As a general proposition, it will problematise using 'regime change' as an indicator for transition in deeply divided societies. It will argue that a Transitional Justice narrative that is aligned to the liberal peace tradition is bound to fail given that it fails to engage with the structural issues that inhibit democratic change. It will further argue that misplaced optimism generated by such thinly conceived transitional justice efforts may in fact hurt victims and survivors. Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan served as an academic attached to the Department of Law, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka between 2010 and 2020 serving as Senior Lecturer at the time of resignation. He served as Head of the Department between January 2017 and November 2019. He is also a practicing attorney and has appeared as lead counsel in a number of cases relating to post-war human rights issues in Northern Sri Lanka including in cases relating to the right to memory, the rights of families of the disappeared and post-war land issues. He is a Co-founder of the Tamil Civil Society Forum and Founder Chair of the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research, based in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He holds an LL.B (Hons) from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, a BCL from Balliol College, University of Oxford and a PhD from University College London in Public International Law and Comparative Constitutional Law. He was awarded the Chevening Scholarship in 2010 and the Commonwealth Scholarship in 2013. Guruparan was at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights as a Research Visitor between October 2020 and January 2021.
Kashmir and the State of Exception
Habeel Iqbal gives a talk as part of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) Seminar Series. Kashmir is among the oldest unresolved international conflicts on the United Nations' agenda. Over the last few decades, India has imposed a state of permanent emergency in Indian-administered Kashmir, through 'draconian' domestic laws that quell the political struggle and the rights of the people of Kashmir. Thousands have been killed in extrajudicial executions, scores have been arbitrarily detained, and many subjected to enforced disappearances. Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war to subjugate an entire population. The political rights and basic freedoms of the people of Kashmir have been systematically denied to them by using domestic laws like the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978, among others. This seminar will address how mass human rights violations are committed in Indian-administered Kashmir with impunity, and reflect on how the state of exception has been the norm in Kashmir for decades now. Habeel Iqbal is a lawyer from Indian-administered Kashmir working on human rights issues. He is a legal consultant with the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, an organisation working against enforced disappearances in Kashmir.
Australian War Crimes in Afghanistan: National Mechanisms, Positive Complementarity and Command Responsibility
Douglas Guilfoyle gives a talk as part of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) Seminar Series. Following persistent rumours of criminal misconduct by some Australian Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan, an administrative inquiry was launched in 2016 by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force. That inquiry's report revealed shocking evidence of 23 incidents involving 25 Australian personnel and resulting in 39 killings of persons hors de combat or under Australian control, as well as other misconduct. The inquiry recommended these incidents be prosecuted before ordinary civilian courts under Australia's war crimes legislation, which largely mirrors provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. A new investigative mechanism, the Office of the Special Investigator, has been established to this end. However, the report also suggested that military leaders above the patrol commander level bore only moral or professional responsibility and there should be no prosecutions based on command responsibility. These developments raise questions about the scope of command responsibility under international and Australian law, and the relationship between national investigative mechanisms and the International Criminal Court. Douglas Guilfoyle is Associate Professor of International and Security Law at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales Canberra. His principal areas of research are maritime security, the international law of the sea, and international and transnational criminal law. He was previously a Professor of Law at Monash University, Reader in Law at University College London, and has acted as a consultant to various governments and international organisations. In 2019-2020 he was a Visiting Legal Fellow at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He is a regular contributor to the blog EJILTalk!
The War Lawyers: The United States, Israel and Juridical Warfare
This talk was given as part of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) Seminar Series. In this seminar, Dr Craig Jones discusses his newly published book, The War Lawyers. Craig’s monograph examines the laws of war interpreted and applied by military lawyers to aerial targeting operations carried out by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israel military in Gaza. Drawing on interviews with military lawyers and others, he explains why some lawyers became integrated in the chain of command whereby military targets are identified and attacked, whether by manned aircraft, drones and/or ground forces, and with what results. Craig’s research shows just how important law and war lawyers have become in the conduct of contemporary warfare, and how it is understood. Jones argues that circulations of law and policy between the US and Israel have expanded the scope of what constitutes a legitimate military target, contending that the involvement of war lawyers in targeting operations not only constrains military violence, but also enables, legitimises, and sometimes even extends it. Dr Craig Jones is a Lecturer in Political Geography in the School of Geography, Sociology and Politics at Newcastle University. He completed his PhD in Geography at the University of British Columbia in 2017. He researches the geographies of later modern warfare and is especially interested legal and medical materialities of war and conflict in the contemporary Middle East. His current work focuses on the slow violence of traumatic injury and regimes of rehabilitation among civilian populations in Palestine, Iraq, and Syria. To learn more please visit the War Space website or follow him on Twitter @thewarspace.
Transitional Justice Through the Lens of Art
This talk was given as part of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) Seminar Series. This panel discussion explores the role of art in transitional justice and the depiction of transitional justice through art. We are joined by panellists Leslie Thomas, Bernadette Vivuya and Nadia Siddiqui. The event was co-organised with the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict. Leslie Thomas is the founder of ART WORKS Projects, an Emmy-award winning art director, architect, and mother. Current projects include directing The Prosecutors, curating a touring exhibition on ending female genital mutilation for the United Nations, and co-editing a book of photography on the impact of war on children in Syria. She is in pre-production on a narrative feature on women’s rights and in development on a film about the movement for Irish independence. Her multi-media human rights focused work has toured across five continents in major policy, academic, and cultural settings and been the recipient of grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, the MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the International Labour Organization, and many other major philanthropic institutions. Leslie is a graduate of Columbia University and the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Bernadette Vivuya is a visual journalist and filmmaker based in Goma, Eastern DRC. She is an alumnus in “Social justice photography: Decomposing the colonial gaze” led by Yole! Africa. She reports on issues related to human rights, the environment and the exploitation of raw materials, bearing witness to the resilience and transcendence of the people in this conflict-affected region. She most recently directed the short documentary 'Letter to my Child from Rape', which brings to the screen the powerful words of poet-advocate Désanges Kabuo as she braves prejudice to claim a future for the child she bore as a result of sexual violence. Nadia Siddiqui is a cross-disciplinary researcher and writer interested in the links between cultural practice, social dynamics, and justice. As a co-director at Social Inquiry, she leads research exploring identities and belonging in displacement (and return), measuring social cohesion, and understanding what reconciliation and accountability mean to communities. She has previously worked with Oxfam, the Middle East Research Institute, the Afghanistan Analysts Network, the Applied Theatre Collective, and the International Center for Transitional Justice, among others. Nadia has also helped produce art/design events in New York City that have garnered national and international attention. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan and an MSc. in Evidence-Based Social Interventions from the University of Oxford.
The Justice of Visual Art - Creative State-Building in Times of Transition
This talk was given as part of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) Seminar Series. Art is a radical form of political participation in times of transition. Arising out of 11 months of fieldwork at the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the South Africa Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale, which included 130 interviews with key decision makers, the book 'The Justice of Visual Art: Creative State-Building in Times of Transition' explores three important areas of transitional justice: the theoretical framing of justice and art; the visual jurisprudence of justice measures developed in transition; and, the cultural diplomacy practices of states emerging from conflict. In this seminar, we are joined by the author of the book, Dr Eliza Garnsey.
Eliza Garnsey is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in International Relations at the University of Cambridge and a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College Cambridge. She is currently in Australia as an Honorary Associate at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on art and visual culture in international relations and world politics, particularly in relation to human rights, transitional justice, and conflict.