Course Catalog

Reparations, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice Seminar: Legal Theory and Practice (6)

This course will explore the 20th and 21st century efforts of individuals, groups and countries to rebuild and repair after systematic racial/ethnic discrimination, terrorism or genocide. Although we will look at and draw on a number of instances of racial and ethnic terrorism both in the U.S. and abroad, and on national and international responses to these acts, we will focus principally on three of the most recent and well-known efforts to address racial/ethnic discrimination, terrorism and genocide in the 20th century: the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War; the system of apartheid in South Africa; and the mass killing of ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda. We will also draw on legal and quasi-legal responses to the Holocaust, and genocide in the former Yugoslavia. In exploring these instances of racial/ethnic discrimination and terrorism, we will look at how formal international and state-based legal systems address or fail to address the complex questions of justice, punishment, truth-telling, and reparation. Indeed the central focus of the course will be to examine the limitations of formal international and state legal systems to address these important issues. In so doing, we will study emerging quasi-legal and non-legal techniques that have been and are increasingly being utilized to address conflicts of this sort in communities throughout the world. These mechanisms focus principally on truth-telling, reconciliation and reparation. Captured under the heading “restorative justice” the techniques we will examine include among others, truth commissions, legislative resolutions, healing circles, community conferencing and gaccaca tribunals. The course will conclude with the application of the ideas explored during the semester to the recently filed litigation seeking reparations for slavery and racial terrorism in the United States, and the unique particular legal challenges inherent in these cases. Particular attention will be focused on the difficult issues of standing, DNA evidence, statutes of limitation and the fashioning of relief raised in those cases.

In Fall 2004 this course was taught as a Special Topic. In Spring 2006 it was taught as a seminar. This year it will be an LTP. In this regard, the course is being re-developed to include a practice component. Although we will not directly take on clients ourselves, we will provide legal research and writing assistance on behalf of victims of mass violence or genocide who are represented by organizations or pro bono counsel. We will also directly assist organizations, communities and individuals who are preparing for, or are developing local restorative justice tribunals. Organizations with which we expect to collaborate include, Southern Truth & Reconciliation (STAR), an organization that has been instrumental in fostering restorative justice tribunals in several states in the South to address decades-old lynchings (I served on their advisory board), and the War Crimes Research office at American University law school, which itself provides research to the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR). We also plan to work with pro bono counsel in leading reparations cases (currently in federal court) who seek assistance in addressing questions of standing and statute of limitations. We will also work with the consortium of Universities engaged in an investigation of university profit from or entanglement with the 18th and 19th century slave trade. The precise arrangements with several of these organizations are still being worked out. As this is a one-semester offering, we also face the challenge of identifying projects that can be undertaken and completed in 15 weeks. It is my expectation that students will prepare legal memos, write sections of briefs, provide research and write reports to satisfy the practice component of the course.

All students will be required to purchase and read Martha Minow’s BEYOND VENGEANCE AND FORGIVENESS: FACING HISTORY AFTER GENOCIDE AND MASS VIOLENCE, which provides an overview and critique of the Nuremburg War Crimes tribunal, South African TRC, and well as the ICTY and (then proposed) ICTR. Supplemental materials will be taken from a number of books, articles and studies developed over the past 20 years. Students will also view four films during the semester, and there will be at least 3 outside speakers who will visit our class as well.

Students who enroll in this course are required to attend a full, one day Law Practice Orientation Program.

Current & Previous Instructors:

This course is not currently scheduled.


Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course

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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2014, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved