Report on 6th Annual Conference on "Historical Dialogues, Justice and Memory Network 1-3rd Dec 2016, Amsterdam


The 6th annual Conference brought together 150 members of the international community working on human rights, historical and transitional justice (TJ), including a diverse array of subject matter high profiled experts, experienced field researcher, practitioners, leading academics and leaders in the non-profit sector with the research focus on how overcoming genocidal past, gross human rights violations, mass political violence as well as historical injustices. The event was hosted by NIOD -institute voor oorlogs-, holocaust- en genocides studies- and the Institute for the Study of human rights of the Columbia University.

The event took place from December, 1st-3rd, in Amsterdam, located at the University´s Library and NIOD Museum in Amsterdam and was crowd-funded by the Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH), Utrecht University, AHM, likewise the Huizinga Institute.

The main objectives of this meeting were first, to discuss theoretical models on Transitional and Historical Justice according their international and domestic implementations as well as debating their obstacles and optimization potential in ongoing processes in 21st century on reconciliation and truth-seeking processes. Based on comparative case studies with geopolitical focus on the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific the Conference aimed to evaluate the efficacy of institutionalized processes which are critically dealing with the past of historical injustices. Secondly, the conference asked on TJ measures, their historical-political preconditions, indicators and their impact on societies from grass-root and bottom up level. Furthermore, each of the five parallel panels assess on how perpetrator´s and victim´s narratives can be addressed balanced without emerging new or already existing conflicts within the societies. 

According to the outline of the conference´s program, the legacy of genocide, gross human rights violations, mass political violence, and historical injustice has been arguably laid bare through a whole range of mechanisms: official apologies, vetting, international criminal tribunals, national, or local legal proceedings, truth commissions, official commemorations, restitution, revising school history curricula, establishing monuments and museums, and hybrid trials. Each of these mechanisms seek to contribute in their own way to accountability, reconciliation, the historical record, victims' rights, and competing 'truths'. As the international ad-hoc trials - often instigated in the immediate aftermath of, or during conflict - wind down, we enter a new phase of evaluating the efficacy of these and other institutionalized means of confronting the violent past. We can now begin to assess their impact on the societies from which the perpetrators and/or victims emerged. And what about societies that maintain official amnesia or actively repress the memory of violence with regard to historical injustices? Is there a right timing for addressing the violent past? Should and could historians and historical dialogue play a more instrumental role in these processes? (

In the afternoon panel on the second day, high ranked experts such as Prof. William A. Schabas (Middlesex University, Honorary Professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Science in Beijing, visiting fellow at Kellogg College of the University of Oxford) was given a talk on his academic and practical experiences as commissioner of the Truth Commission in Sierra Leone and gave first hand insights into the topic "Courts, Commission and the Right to Truth".

The JCRS staff was pleased to assist at this professional arranged conference and network event for professional and scholars with related research fields. First-hand insights of experts could be shared and enriches the work on own dissertation projects with focus on the efficiency on reconciliation policy and contestation of reconciliation practices in East Asia and Eastern Europe.