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Victims’ Rights and Distributive Justice: In Search of Actors


The aim of this article is to discuss the role that victim groups and organizations may have in framing and supporting an accountability agenda, as well as their potential for endorsing a distributive justice agenda. The article explores two empirical cases where victims' rights have been introduced and applied by victim organizations to promote accountability—Colombia and Peru. It will be argued that if transitional justice in general and victim reparations in particular are to embark in a quest for distributive justice, it cannot do so without considering victims as political actors, and putting forward demands in terms of victims’ rights.

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  1. This does not mean that operationalizing socio-economic rights is a simple task.

  2. Distributive justice refers to a form of justice that takes into consideration the socio-economic and political forms of distribution and access to power and resources in any given society. See Lid and García-Godos (2010).

  3. The article is based on previous and ongoing research in Colombia and Peru, where I have been for several fieldwork periods since 2007.

  4. GA Res. 147, UN GA, 60th Session, UN Doc A/RES/60/147 (2005). Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law.

  5. I developed this analytical framework in (García-Godos 2008a, b).

  6. According to official figures (Acción Social) there are 3.3 million IDPs in Colombia today, while non-governmental organization and coordinator of the Follow-up Commission on Internal Displacement CODHES suggests that 5.1 million people were displaced in Colombia in the period 1985–2010, roughly 11 % of the entire Colombian population. See: “¿Consolidación de qué? Informe sobre desplazamiento, conflicto armado y derechos humanos en Colombia en 2010,” CODHES Informa, No 77 (Bogotá, 15 February 2010), p. 8, available at <>, accessed 17 April 2011.

  7. Law 387 of 1997. Por la cual se adoptan medidas para la prevención del desplazamiento forzado; la atención, protección, consolidación y estabilización socioeconómica de los desplazados internos por la violencia en la República de Colombia, CRC.

  8. Interestingly enough, Law 387 only refers to IDPs as victims in five instances in its text, mostly in the form of ‘victims of this phenomenon’, that is, internal displacement.

  9. Colombian Constitutional Court. Sentence T-025, 22 January 2004.

  10. See:

  11. There are numerous organisations representing and/or composed by IDPs in Colombia today, among them: Asociación Nacional Desplazados de Colombia—ANDSCOL; Coordinación Nacional Desplazados—CND; Organización de Población del Desplazada y Desarraigada Independiente—OPDDI; Asociación de Afrodescendientes Desplazados—AFRODES; Mesa de Interlocución Gestión y Desarrollo—MIGD; Soacha; Colectivo 21 junio.

  12. At the time of writing, peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC and ELN guerrillas are taking place in Cuba. The talks were officially initiated in October 2012.

  13. Congress of the Republic of Colombia (CRC), Law 975, Por la cual se dictan disposiciones para la reincorporación de miembros de grupos armados organizados al margen de la ley, que contribuyan de manera efectiva a la consecución de la paz nacional y se dictan otras disposiciones para acuerdos humanitarios, 25 July 2005. For an unofficial English translation, see (July 25, 2005).

  14. For a detailed analysis of the implementation of Law 975, see García-Godos and Lid (2010). For a discussion that links up to demobilization and peace-building in the Colombian case, see García-Godos (2013).

  15. Legislative Bill 85, 2003, Ley de alternatividad penal.

  16. Movimiento Nacional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado, Acta de Constitución, 25 June 2005. Available at: See also: MAPP-OEA, Décimo tercero informe trimestral (Bogotá, 2009).

  17. “Ley de Víctimas: un paso histórico”, Semana, Issue 1517, 28 May 2011,

  18. The law transformed Acción Social into an administrative department, the Department for Social Prosperity. An updated list of decrees regulating Law 1448 can be found in in its own website, created by the Ministry of Justice and the Law:!__reglamentacion. Last accessed 28 March 2012.

  19. Fujimori abandoned Peru amidst a corruption scandal in November 2000 and sought refuge in Japan, where he stayed until November 2005. Attempts by the Peruvian movement to get him extradited from Japan failed, in spite of serious pending charges. See Burt (2007). In November 2005, Fujimori unexpectedly travelled to Chile, where he was arrested by the Chilean authorities upon request by Peru. After a lengthy extradition process, the Chilean Supreme Court voted in favor of Fujimori’s extradition to Peru in September 2007. The former president was sentenced to 25 years in prison for two cases of human rights violations in 2009. See Burt (2009).

  20. Supreme Decree 068-98-DE-S/G, Ministry of Defense, Peru.

  21. Law no. 28592, approved on 28 July 2005.

  22. Last accessed 25 June 2013.


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Correspondence to Jemima García-Godos.

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García-Godos, J. Victims’ Rights and Distributive Justice: In Search of Actors. Hum Rights Rev 14, 241–255 (2013).

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  • Victims’ rights
  • Victim organisations
  • Distributive justice
  • Victim reparations