Between reconciliation and justice: the struggles for justice and reconciliation in Colombia

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Over the past decades, Colombian society has endured the impact of a longstanding political conflict among different actors and outrageous expressions of violence, especially among left wing guerrillas, right wing

Over the past decades, Colombian society has endured the impact of a longstanding political conflict among different actors and outrageous expressions of violence, especially among left wing guerrillas, right wing paramilitary groups and the state government. Drawing on socio-legal studies in transitional justice and human rights, this research attempts to analyze the recent experience of transitional justice in Colombia. The main purpose of this research is to understand how political, institutional and social actors, especially the government, the courts, the human rights and transitional justice NGOs, and victims associations, frame the mechanisms of transitional justice and use legal instruments to transform the conflict and reach what they consider "justice." It also attempts to understand the relations between politics and law in the context of a hegemonic discourse of security and give account of the expressions of resistance of human rights networks. In doing so, this research advances theory on literature about law and society and transitional justice by means of applying and expanding the theoretical framework of socio-legal research via the process of transitional justice in Colombia. The dissertation presents information gathered in the field in Colombia between July 2009 and July 2010 through a qualitative research design based on document analysis and in-depth interviews with members of different international and domestic human rights organizations, victims' organizations and national institutions. The research explains how these organizations combined political and legal actions in order to contest a project of security, and more specifically a project of impunity that came from negotiations with the paramilitary groups. The research also explains how the human rights networks not only mobilized internationally to gain political support from the international community, but also how these organizations contributed to transform the political debate about victims' rights. The research also explains how the human rights organizations and victims' groups articulated the global discourse on human rights and the local and domestic meanings constructed by the emerging movements of victims. Finally, the research analyses the relevance of legal practices consisting on strategic use of law in order to protect the victims of human rights violations.