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HHRI provides information about mental health and human rights violations             Boletín en Español

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Boletín en Español 

See the original newsletter here.Health and Human Rights Info (HHRI) Newsletter April 2019
HHRI provides information about mental health and human rights violations         Spanish Boletín

Overview of content 
Transitional justice and mental health
Further reading on transitional justice
Download the HHRI GBV manual
Upcoming Events

Photo: Marino Cordoba Colombia’s human rights defender during his visit to Oslo.

Dear friends and colleagues
Transitional justice and mental health

“We want to know the truth. Who ordered the killings of my family and the people in my village?” Legitimate questions from Marino Cordoba, a Human rights defender and a social leader from Riosucio in Colombia. These were some of the expectations that the truth commission was met with, when set to work in Colombia in December 2018.

The question is of course – will the people of Colombia be provided with the full truth through the work of the truth commission? Few of us are in doubt as to the importance of transitional processes in situations following a conflict, when peace agreements are signed, and the reconstruction of society is needed. As part of such processes, truth commissions, investigations and legal procedures, as well as different forms of reparations, are vital. In this context, forgiveness, in addition to reconciliation, is often described as important parts of this.

But what does it take for those who have lost and suffered, to forgive, or to reconcile with persons formerly seen as enemies or even oppressors? What role does the truth commission play in this? It is evident that people have the right to know, but it is not always so clear that truth alone provides the sense of restoration that the victims and survivors are looking for and that the peace process requires when a conflict is over.

Examples from different countries that have carried out truth commissions, indicates that the process may be of value, but often not enough to restore the balance and sense of justice.  The experiences with truth commissions in South Africa, Uganda, Guatemala, Rwanda and Kenya are evidence of important steps, but more is usually needed. According to Pathak (2017) transitional justice constitutes a five-pillar approach: truth, justice, healing, prosecution and reparation, as ways of confronting and dealing with the authoritarian or violent past.  So, one can say that without all the five pillars, and probably, without the clear presence of justice and accountability, the transition of a community from conflict to peace will face difficulties.

As a means of supporting victims and as a way for them to move forward, the role of the truth commissions and their effects have been much debated. Pathak also underlines that the budget often allocated to the commissions and the amount defined for reparations to the victims, are usually very inadequate, and the lack of official policies and inadequate legislation and regulations to govern these processes, are factors that can jeopardies these important and needed processes.

Hayes in Hamber (2007) claims that “Revealing is not simply healing; the process of healing depends on how we reveal, the context of the revealing, and what it is that we are revealing”. The truth may be a collection of past events, consisting of different interpretations and recollection of what happened. It is vital that victims, the survivors and those participating in the transitional processes consider these as fair and just, and that those involved are met with respect and in a dignified manner in order for them not to be revictimized in the process. These are some of the important issues that must be taken into consideration when working with victims engaging in truth commissions.
Please have a look at the links below and at our thematical page on transitional justice for more information related to the topic.

Further reading on transitional justice

Charles Mulinda Kabwete 2018
This theoretical discussion around the concepts of truth, confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation after conflict has showed to what extent these concepts are interconnected. We saw that those who seek truth have to pass through a negotiation process or something that looks like a negotiation. Those who narrate this truth, recall past events but also interpret and even reinterpret them. This whole exercise can be seen as an attempt to contextualise the collection of truth but also to problematise it. Truth in most cases is plural, not singular.
To Prosecute or Not to Prosecute: The Need for Justice in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka
Nadeshda Jayakody 2017
Since the mid-1970s, social psychologists and legal scholars have surveyed people around the world who have participated in judicial proceedings involving crimes committed in domestic jurisdictions to understand what it is about such processes that lead participants to consider them fair or unfair, and ultimately to accept or reject the outcome of such proceedings. Almost universally, these procedural justice studies have found that witnesses define a “fair process” as one that is based largely on three criteria described; benevolence, the degree to which they perceive that the court officials, from judges to social workers, care about them and their experiences; neutrality, the extent to which they have been able to talk about their experiences in a neutral and unbiased forum; and respect, the extent to which they have been treated in a professional and dignified manner.Colombia: Today the Truth Commission begins its mandate

El Espectador 2018
“We hope we can contribute to Colombia seeking the truth in a sincere, transparent way, which is a public good and is the responsibility of all of us in Colombia. We hope to contribute in depth with our communication and pedagogy and with the Casas de la Verdad that we are starting to open in different regions in the form of a mobile team with the communities,” he said in an interview with the Justice for Peace chapter of Colombia 2020.

While there is growing interest in examining what long-term impact truth commissions have on society, our understanding has been hampered by a number of empirical problems. Specifically, most studies focus on a small biased subsample of cases, rely on anecdotal evidence and normative conviction, and fail to follow the truth commission’s legacy beyond its immediate reception. What is more, although a range of purposes have been put forward for truth commissions, there is little consensus on what criteria might be used to assess them.
ICTJ, Eduardo González, Elena Naughton, Félix Reátegui 2014
Sustainable peace requires more than agreements between leaders: it requires institutions that are worthy of trust, that respect human rights. In turn, these institutions require the confidence of citizens who previously only had reasons to distrust state authorities. Only then is the recurrence of violence less likely.
Robins, Simon 2017
The truth commission is claimed to be ‘victim-centred’, as a result of this process being primarily performative and focussed on victim testimony, institutionalising the truth claims of victims through public truth-telling with the social goal of reconnecting victims and society.
Brandon Hamber*, Dineo Nageng & Gabriel O’Malley 1995

From a psychological (psychoanalytic) perspective, sleeping dogs do not lie and past traumas do not simply pass or disappear with the passage of time; but testimony and telling (and hearing) the truth will not instantaneously result in healing (Hamber, 1995;1998a).  Revealing is not simply healing; the process of healing depends on how we reveal, the context of the revealing, and what it is that we are revealing (Hayes, 1998).  In the final report of the TRC, the Commission acknowledges the healing potential of storytelling, whilst noting that it initiated more than it closed when it came to individual healing (TRC, 1998).

For sale Ruthledge
This book addresses current developments in transitional justice in Latin America – effectively the first region to undergo concentrated transitional justice experiences in modern times. Using a comparative approach, it examines trajectories in truth, justice, reparations, and amnesties in countries emerging from periods of massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The book examines the cases of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, developing and applying a common analytical framework to provide a systematic, qualitative and comparative analysis of their transitional justice experiences. More specifically, the book investigates to what extent there has been a shift from impunity towards accountability for past human rights violations in Latin America.

Download the HHRI GBV manual

Download the manual Mental health and gender-based violence: Helping survivors of sexual violence in conflict for free. The manual is also available inArabic, Russian and Spanish. This training material has been written for those who provide assistance and support to women who survive gender-based violence and sexual trauma during disasters, wars and conflicts.  Furthermore, we hope it may be helpful as well to those who work with gender-based violence survivors in other settings. Please share the manual and spread it among your colleagues, organizations or in your community.

On our HHRI Facebook page we are continuously posting new and relevant articles that we add to our web site, as well as events and videos.

Upcoming Events

21st Nordic Conference for therapists working with traumatized refugees
From powerlessness to strength
6th – 7th June 2019,
Stavanger, Norway

16th ESTSS Conference Trauma in Transition: 
Building Bridges
14th -16th June 2019
Rotterdam, Nederland

ACOTS2019 20th Australasian Conference on Traumatic Stress
Trauma, recovery and growth: Advances in research and practice
13th – 14th September 2019
Sydney, Australia

7th International ESTD  Biennial Congress
The Legacy of Trauma and Dissociation: Body and Mind in a New Perspective
24th – 26th October 2019
Rome, Italy

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Trauma, Recovery, and Resilience: Charting a Course Forward
14th -16th November 2019
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

The global human rights education and training centre 
Different courses related to human rights

The 11th International Society for Health and Human Rights (ISHHR) Conference
October 2020 Medellín, Colombia,

The Conference and Capacity-Building Workshops will focus on themes relevant to both local and international participants such as:

  • Sexual violence in war and its consequences
  • Treatment and care of survivors of traumatic human rights abuse
  • Supporting Human Rights Defenders
  • Post-conflict reconciliation
  • The challenges faced by internally displaced peoples (IDPs)
  • Social activism in the fight against poverty (rural and urban)
  • Traditional healing and the role of rituals
  • ‘Los desaparecidos’: missing persons, families and psychosocial support
  • Ethnic perspectives on social activism, empowerment and reconciliation
  • Helping the helper
  • The role of women in the construction of peace

We appreciate feedback and comments 

The Health and Human Rights Info Newsletter is a newsletter with the aim to provide insight on a certain subject across the scope of our work; human rights violations in war and conflict areas and mental health. Our intention is to deliver a newsletter as a short “lecture” where you can find relevant information regarding a specific subject with a mental health perspective.

We would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on other issues you would like to see in this newsletter or share with us your evidence-based practices to post on our website. To disseminate them, they must be validated, published and authorized for dissemination. If you are planning an event on related issues, please let us know so we can include your event in our newsletter.

If you know anyone who would be interested in receiving this e-newsletter, please forward it, and encourage them to sign up.
Sincerely yours

Health and Human Rights Info
Elisabeth Ng Langdal
Executive Director
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View the original newsletter here.

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