Lessons from Transitional Justice? Toward a New Framing of a Victim-Centered Approach in the Case of Historical Institutional Abuse

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Abstract

The article critically examines transitional justice mechanisms to determine if historical abuse inquiries can learn from this field of practice. The article explores the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry which reported its findings in January 2017 as a vehicle for addressing what lessons might be learned or shared between the fields of transitional justice and investigations into historical abuse. Through a detailed analysis of empirical research with those that gave testimony to the Inquiry, including fourthly-three victims and Inquiry transcripts, the article explores to what extent the Inquiry was victim-centered, enabled victim participation (beyond giving testimony) and addressed victim needs. The article shows that many of the flaws of transitional justice mechanisms have been replicated when dealing with historical child abuse. Drawing on lessons from transitional justice–both positive and negative–the article outlines five broad areas for consideration that could strengthen the victim-centered nature of approaches to dealing with the legacy of historical child abuse. The article concludes that addressing victims’ needs should be at the center and drive approaches and processes for both transitional justice and historical institutional abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-770
Number of pages27
JournalVictims & Offenders: An International Journal of Evidence-based Research, Policy, and Practice
Volume15
Issue number6
Early online date15 Apr 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Northern Ireland
  • child abuse
  • historical institutional abuse
  • human rights violations
  • inquiries
  • justice
  • needs
  • transitional justice
  • victim participation
  • victims

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