Social Exclusion in Deeply Divided Societies: A Socioeconomic Rights-approach to Transitional Justice

Read the whole piece in E-International Relations

This paper claims that socioeconomic rights must be part of social reconstruction in deeply divided societies because the lack thereof lies at the core of the conflicts we aim to transform. The essay is divided in four sections. Firstly, it discusses the role of poverty and inequality in fostering violence and mistrust within societies. Secondly, the article suggests that the frame ‘economic and social rights’ is more suitable than other approaches covered in literature (such as ‘human needs’ or ‘human security’). Third, it looks at three case studies where socioeconomic rights have been officially recognized as constitutive elements of transitional justice (Guatemala, South Africa and Northern Ireland) and critically examines some important empirical limitations of the inclusion of economic and social rights in the equation of conflict resolution. The article concludes with an appeal to overcome strictly legalistic and individualistic approaches to economic and social rights as a condition to get the most out of human rights in a period of transition.

Written in March 2011

Koldo Casla



Do not obviate the socioeconomic context of the platinum mine killings in South Africa

On 16 August, 34 workers were killed and at least 78 injured after police opened fire on striking miners at the Lonmin-owned platinum Marikana mine in South Africa. Over the years, South Africans have witnessed several instances of confrontation between police forces and striking workers. However, this bloody episode in Marikana exceeds anything seen before in the last two decades and has been deemed “the worst incident of state violence since the apartheid era”.

The day after the shootings, President Zuma announced the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the circumstances of the killings. Amnesty International called for a judicial oversight of the investigation. Human Rights Watch stressed out that the commission should look at the “background and underlying events leading to the violence (…) including the deaths of police at the hands of miners”. As observed by Bonita Meyersfeld, Jackie Dugard and Nikki Naylor, three leading South African human rights advocates, “underlying the question of police conduct, there is a deeper issue”. Continue reading “Do not obviate the socioeconomic context of the platinum mine killings in South Africa”

Landmark ruling upholds right to truth

South Africa’s Constitutional Court recently made a landmark ruling on the right to truth (The Citizen and others v McBride, decided on 8 April 2011).

The question before the South African Constitutional Court was whether a person convicted of murder but granted amnesty (in the mid-90s) can now be called a ‘criminal’ and a ‘murderer’. The judgment came after a former police chief Robert McBride sued The Citizen newspaper for calling him a murderer though he had been granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for his role in planting a bomb in Magoo’s bar in Durban in 1986. The High Court and Supreme Court ruled that amnesty wipes out a conviction, making it as if the murder never occurred, and therefore that people should not call McBride a murderer. But the Constitutional Court overturned this, as it considered that amnesty did not erase the fact that McBride had indeed committed murder. (See an interesting legal analysis by Rosalind English in UK Human Rights Blog). Continue reading “Landmark ruling upholds right to truth”