Victims, Non-victims, and their Opinions on Transitional Justice. Findings from the Colombian Case
A revised version of this paper is published in International Journal of Transitional Justice, DOI: 10.1093/ijtj/ijv006 (2015)
36 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2014 Last revised: 22 Mar 2016
Date Written: April 22, 2014
Victims of armed conflict are often seen as driven by trauma-related stark emotions that differentiate them from non-victims. Based on this premise, they should hold different views from people who have not been directly affected by war about punishing perpetrators of violence, remembering human rights violations, seeking truth, and receiving reparations. The resilience literature, on the other hand, has downplayed the role of traumatic experiences in shaping people’s views and rather stressed their ability to cope with adversity. In this article, we ask whether there are any differences in attitudes towards transitional justice mechanisms between victims and non-victims, using a representative sample of the Colombian population (N=1843, of which 315 are conflict victims). We find almost no statistically significant differences. Psychological resilience among victims may account for this counterintuitive finding. However, we suggest that social desirability biases, a pervasive impact of the long conflict beyond the victim/non-victim divide, and social proximity between victims and perpetrators may also be relevant explanations. Our results are relevant for scholars and policymakers, as they question elements of common (yet untested) wisdom about the political and social impact of violence on individuals’ attitudes and about the prospects of peaceful coexistence.
Keywords: transitional justice, victims, attitudes, reconciliation, Colombia
JEL Classification: N46, Z00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation