An Emerging Mandate for International Courts: Victim-Centered Remedies and Restorative Justice
55 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2011 Last revised: 30 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 29, 2011
More than ever, international attention has been directed to the needs of those who have suffered human rights violations. Nevertheless, the chasm between what victims want and what they obtain is still vast. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, unlike most tribunals, has sought to narrow this gap by ordering remedies that respond to victims’ demands for recognition, restoration, and accountability.
In contrast, for decades the European Court of Human Rights has applied a restrictive remedial model. The European Court, inordinately concerned about its institutional integrity, curtails remedies — often delivering only declaratory relief and monetary damages. Since the Inter-American model is far more oriented towards the expressed preferences of victims, I will designate it “victim-centered”, while I conceptualize the European approach as “cost-centered”.
This Article will consider the development of the victim-centered approach in international law, test its feasibility, and then urge its application — by both the European Court and nascent human rights bodies searching for adequate remedial principles. To demonstrate the viability of this model, I will present a detailed analysis of state compliance with the remedies of the Inter-American Court.
I conclude that the European Court, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Criminal Court have recently made progress towards a victim-centered paradigm. But the tribunals still have much terrain to cover, if they choose to follow the trail blazed by the Inter-American Court. The Inter-American Court has been able to convince states to implement its demanding remedies without losing their allegiance. While its approach is certainly not perfect, its record shows that a victim-centered model is attainable for international courts.
Keywords: human rights, remedies, reparations, compliance, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, international law, restorative justice, victim rights, Inter-American System, European Court of Human Rights, African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, International Criminal Court, Latin America
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