Transitional justice principles versus survivors’ experience – conflicting interpretations in Kosovo case study involving missing persons and their memorialisation

Authors: Klinkner, M. and Schwandner-Sievers, S.

Editors: Rauschenbach, M., Viebach, J. and Parmentier, S.

Publisher: Routledge


Survivors of gross human rights violations can tell individual stories of suffering and lessons learnt which can feed into the collective memory of a population. According to Transitional Justice, however, core common principles are posited to apply universally when dealing with past gross human rights violations. These include the human-rights based Dealing with the Past framework derived from the Joinet-Orentlicher Principles to fight impunity, including four core principles: (1) the right to know, (2) the right to justice, (3) the right to reparation and (4) guarantees of non-recurrence. We compare and contrast the intended meaning of this principled rights-based approach with local survivors’ perspectives and interpretations as elucidated through a micro-ethnographic approach. Our case study focuses on the story, activism and continued memorialisation efforts of Ferdonije Qerkezi of Gjakova in Kosovo, whose husband, four sons and six further relatives were abducted from her home in spring 1998. This ethnographically-grounded, systematic comparison of intended versus locally constructed interpretations of, and associated meanings given to, the four core principles points to the importance of a nuanced right-based approach which can take local systems of knowledge into account when considering transitional justice aims vis-a-vis social realities on the ground.

Source: Manual