Podcasts: Prevention and Reconciliation by Troels Gaulsø and Jakob v. H. Holtermann

Prevention and Reconciliation

The fifth seminar in the series “Atrocities and the Development of Human Rights” focused on how human rights has changed global political and legal landscapes as a reaction to the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia and the fall of the South African Apartheid regime in the 90’s.

Troels Gaulsø from Department of Political Science at University of Copenhagen focused on international politics the changing role of the UN Security Council.

Jakob v. H. Holtermann from Faculty of Law at University of Copenhagen focused on the institutionalisation of human rights and international criminal law through tribunals and international courts.


Troels Gaulsø

How are human rights and security related in international politics? And how is it changing?

Since the 90’s we have witnessed a rise of human rights on the UN security agenda. The number of mentions of human rights in resolutions in the UN Security Council has risen 7-fold in this period and the UN Security Council has started receiving monthly briefings from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Responsibility to Protect doctrine (R2P), obliging the international community to assist or ultimately intervene if states fail to protect their citizens, is a part of this development and came as a reaction to the failure of the international community in preventing the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia.

The mainstream understanding of security is broadening to include intra-state human rights issues. To some states like Russia and China this development is viewed as a threat to national sovereignty.



Jakob v. H. Holtermann

Should war criminals be punished or offered conditional amnesty if they agree to cooperate? These have been the two ways in which atrocities have handled after since the 90’s. But what are the pros and cons of the two? And is peace or justice more important?

In his presentation Jakob v. H. Holtermann showed how a number of the implicit arguments for punishing might not make sense in international crimes. In many atrocities violence is normalized to the point that it becomes meaningless to point out individual perpetuators. And in some cases the threat of punishment might lead despots to cling on to power thereby potentially jeopardizing peace.

In the case of South Africa perpetrators were offered amnesty under the circumstance that they cooperate in bringing forward information that could help bring “truth and reconciliation” – information that they might have withheld if under threat of punishment. This may well have paved the way for peace – but did it bring justice?

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