In the Emilio Mignone Lecture, Pablo de Greiff outlines the challenges facing transitional justice

In this year’s Emilio Mignone Lecture, Pablo de Greiff, director of the transitional justice program at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, examined both the accomplishments of transitional justice and the challenges facing it—what he called “the future of dealing with the past.” He defined transitional justice more precisely as the policies, such as truth commissions or reparations, that are implemented “to deal with the legacies of massive and systematic violations and abuses and to restore…the currency of human rights.”

Pablo Greiff
Pablo de Greiff

“Transitional justice has helped to entrench rights to justice, truth, and reparations that 30 years ago were largely fictions for the overwhelming majority of victims of human rights violations and abuses,” said de Greiff, who served as the first United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence.

But he offered some criticism of current practices as well, contending that transitional justice has become too technocratic and formulaic and is not sufficiently attuned to economic, cultural, and political differences between societies.

De Grieff argued for the importance of a robust civil society—including institutions such as labor unions and religious organizations—as a way to promote change both in the broader culture and in individual attitudes.

“I know no transitional process that has worked, except for the demand of civil society,” he said. “I have never met a country, a government, that has spontaneously said, ‘Great. Now we are going to do the right thing’ spontaneously. No. Governments are brought there. They do not get there by their own volition. And therefore the question for me today is, what can be done in order to strengthen civil society?”

Posted May 6, 2019

Follow Pablo de Greiff's full remarks on video: