Naomi Roht-Arriaza on Measures of Non-Repetition After Atrocity Crimes

Published on: Author: Chimene Keitner

Distinguished Professor Naomi Roht-Arriaza, author of the pathbreaking monograph The Pinochet Effect: Transitional Justice in the Age of Human Rights and a recently appointed amicus curiae for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Colombia, examines the question of Measures of Non-Repetition in Transitional Justice: The Missing Link? in a forthcoming book chapter.

The chapter begins with the observation that “The early hopes that trials and truth commissions, focused on core crimes and civil and political rights violations, would usher in robust, inclusive democracies have, not surprisingly, proven overoptimistic.” Adopting a more forward-looking perspective leads to a focus on measures of non-repetition, which are generally understood to include demobilization and dissolution of armed groups, vetting, and institutional reforms focused on the security and justice sectors. This chapter traces the origins of the concept of “measures of non-repetition” and examines efforts to define such measures more fulsomely as part of an agenda for transformative justice, which emphasizes the need for bottom-up, victim-centered, and participatory processes, as well as the need to consider a wider range of violations (and thus a wider range of potential changes) related to social and economic rights.

The concept of a guarantee of non-repetition (“GNR”) was, at its origin, a form of injunctive relief available in interstate disputes. When adapted to the human-rights context, this form of relief has entailed identifying and addressing structural problems beyond an individual’s claim. As Professor Roht-Arriaza observes with respect to the Inter-American system, “These judgments begin to broaden the scope of GNR beyond the specifics of the case before the Court, to the underlying causes and to similar situations that are not necessarily likely to come to trial.” The U.N. Human Rights Council’s appointment of a Special Rapporteur for the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, to “deal with situations in which there have been gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law,” also signals increased (if belated) attention to the role of measures of non-repetition in post-conflict settings.

Professor Roht-Arriaza argues that “[t]here is no conceptual reason why such measures need be limited to vetting, or justice or security sector reform, in a post-armed conflict or repression context.” Her chapter will no doubt prompt a deeper consideration of the potential uses of measures of non-repetition, defined expansively, to address the root causes of large-scale human-rights violations, and to design concrete interventions that will have a measurable and lasting impact on peoples’ lives in affected communities.