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Reparation Politics and the Question of Differential Success

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Part of the Springer Series in Transitional Justice book series (SSTJ,volume 7)


A redress and reparation norm has developed within international society. This norm obligates states to engage with those that they had victimized. Although the means and ways in which this interaction occurs can often be highly bureaucratic, disenfranchise segments of the population, and even be highly agonistic, states are increasingly entering into these negotiations. Further, we see the demands issued by redress and reparation movements have been gaining recognition and are becoming increasingly successful in obtaining their goals. This engagement can take many forms based on the type of justice it seeks: criminal, historical, reparatory, legislative, and symbolic.

Taking the development of a redress and reparation norm into account, I have sought to examine why, when two victimized groups are attempting to seek justice, there is a differential achievement of their goals, especially when both groups have been subjected to similar atrocities or injustices. To answer the question, this book explored the historical background of three atrocities and/or structured injustice (genocide, internment, and sexual slavery) committed by state actors (Germany, United States, and Japan respectively). These events occurred primarily during World War II; however, each event was presaged by discriminatory actions such as laws targeting ethnic groups or societal norms that devalued the victimized communities legally and/or socially. Six groups were then examined—two from each country/region—to determine why the different groups, having experienced similar treatment by the state, have achieved varying amount of redress and reparation following the efforts of their corresponding RRMs.


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  1. 1.

    Berg and Schaefer (2009, p. 4).

  2. 2.

    The Genocide Convention came into force in January 1951.

  3. 3.

    Finnemore and Sikkink (1998, p. 893).

  4. 4.

    Maogoto (2003).

  5. 5.

    The United States and the Soviet Union signed the Genocide Convention in 1948 and 1949 respectively. The United States did not ratify the treaty until November 25, 1988. The US, however, tends to be reluctant to sign international treaties in general. The Soviet Union ratified the treaty on May 3, 1954.

  6. 6.

    Hein (2003, p. 132).

  7. 7.

    See Timm (1997).

  8. 8.

    Torpey (2006 , p. 24).

  9. 9.

    Ibid. p. 25.

  10. 10.

    Ibid. p. 2.

  11. 11.

    Including Article 75 of Rome Statute (2002), which stated, “The Court shall establish principles relating to reparations to, or in respect of, victims, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation. On this basis, in its decision the Court may, either upon request or on its own motion in exceptional circumstances, determine the scope and extent of any damage, loss and injury to, or in respect of, victims and will state the principles on which it is acting.”

  12. 12.

    Hein (2003, p. 134).

  13. 13.

    Quoted in Pross (1998, p. 22).

  14. 14.

    According to the U.S. Census of Population and Housing, 1960: Summary Population and Housing Characteristics.

  15. 15.

    Torpey (2006).

  16. 16.

    Hegburg (2011).

  17. 17.

    Conyers (2013).

  18. 18.

    Human Rights Watch (2004, pp. 2–3).


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Wolfe, S. (2014). Reparation Politics and the Question of Differential Success. In: The Politics of Reparations and Apologies. Springer Series in Transitional Justice, vol 7. Springer, New York, NY.

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