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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Graduate Student Ore Koren Explores the Use of Reparations as a Response to Mass Killings

Resized-EAN7N.jpgOn May 7, Ore Koren from the departments of Political Science and Applied Economics led the final Holocaust, Genocide and Mass Violence workshop, an initiative of the Human Rights Program and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. In this final installment, Koren presented his quantitative research, which analyzed the patterns of rarity of state reparations as a remedy to victims around the world following instances of mass violence.

Beginning by laying out the theoretical discourse surrounding reparations and his assumptions based off the literature, he remarked that reparations appear to be a rare policy, but the presence of such laws has increased over time. He cited the various theoretical explanations for the adoption of a reparations policy. One school of thought finds policy imitation is the driving force in this process, because reparations work in the favor of regimes who are seeking legitimacy within their own polity but also beyond its borders. Other schools of thought see reparations policies as a reflection of norm diffusion-the right to remedy has become more and more internalized as "normal" or "appropriate." As a result, the rarity of reparations occurs either because norm pressure is greater for certain countries or because many states prefer to adopt retributive forms of justice, such as trials. This speaks to the hard vs. soft law dichotomy in international legal debates. Hard law, more commonly referred to as retributive criminal justice, represents a loss of sovereignty, where as soft law, often reparative or restorative justice reflects non-binding normative responsibility.

Consequently, Koren seeks to account for the increase in the likelihood of reparations as a policy adopted for a specific end in comparison to other policies. How can we understand the spread of reparations as an international norm? Koren hypothesized that more democratic liberal regimes will be more likely to adopt a reparations policy and countries that have been members of similar international organizations for a longer period of time might be more likely to adopt certain policies earlier. Furthermore, following an examination of the legal norms perspective, Koren hypothesized that perpetuating regimes that stay in power will be more likely to provide reparations for their crimes in comparison to new regimes. He also expected to see that such a law or policy is more likely to increase over time due to regional diffusion or international precedent.

In his statistical analysis, Koren adopted the accepted definition of reparations as "any law legally providing some financial amends to victims of crimes perpetuated by the state and mass killing as the target killing of at least 1,000 non-combatants." Koren synthesized the data set from the Transitional Justice Research Collaborative, created by Professor Emerita Kathryn Sikkink of the University of Minnesota and Professor Leigh Payne of the University of Minnesota and the University of Oxford; mass killing data from Valentino and Ulfelder; and data from Freedom House. His research comprised of 79 cases of mass killing with the year the killing ended until the reparations law passed as his unit of analysis. In his study, he accounted for perpetrating regimes, WTO membership, GDP, regional reparation precedent, international precedent and countries with civil versus common law. The countries in question came from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe as a reference category.

The statistical testing found that wealthier countries are more likely to adopt reparations policies. The more reparations laws in existence or international precedent also increased the likelihood a state would implement such a policy. However, he found very weak correlation in regards to regional effects. Democratic countries were more likely to carry out reparations, and countries with a perpetuating regime significantly increased the time until a reparations law was passed. WTO membership and regional reparations precedent significantly increased the time before a law was passed. Countries demonstrating strong civil liberties increased the time before a reparations law; however countries with a higher score for political rights (freedom house) had a much shorter length of time before reparations were introduced. To conclude, Koren found that reparations are in fact a rare diffusive event and the evidence supports this claim.