Compensation or Restitution by Governments

Compensation or Restitution by Governments

The issues surrounding compensation or restitution by governments over past atrocities have been surrounded by controversies. This has all to do with the dynamics of restitution and whether is justified to have the involved parties being compensated. Even where there has been good will from the governments over restitution or compensation, there has been many difficulties that have faced the process.

Even as one would talk about reparation, they must keep in mind which group wants to be compensated. The various parties that would seek compensation are usually divided into three categories. This would include individuals that had their rights infringed long time ago when they were young, organizations, communities and states that would claim for past injustices and individuals or groups that claim for past injustices committed to their ancestral fathers (Jeremy, 1992).

Policy makers would argue that restituting persons for crimes and injustices committed against their ancestors are not justified. This is with the view that such persons do not bare the pain of the persons whom the atrocities were committed to. However, we cannot run away from the fact that such persons could be indirectly affected by the said atrocities. For instance, in Australia and New Zealand, so many individuals lost their lands to unscrupulous persons through shoddy government deals in the 1880. Calculating from the time the event took place, it is definite that most of the affected persons have so far died. However, such persons had relatives and off springs, who in one way or the other were and could still be affected by such taking away of their land. This would mean that even though such persons were not directly affected, they have a right to seek for compensation for the atrocities committed (Thompson, 2004).

Waldron’s indeterminacy thesis holds water in explaining why reparation based on ancestral connection should not be allowed. For instance, in New Zealand, land claims have been as numerous as many claim of being shortchanged based on their ancestral land. However, from a legal perspective, there is no law that binds one to give land to relatives. This would mean that a person might have used their land in a different way other than living it to inheritance. This throws away the guarantee that a person’s relative would have automatically inherited such lands. The same way, the blacks in the United States cannot claim that their suffering is purely out of the mistreatment of their ancestors.

The rationality of paying or compensating people for atrocities committed by some other government is an issue that raises contention. The government is meant to take care of its people. When the government fails, it has the obligation of restituting the citizens based on the damage4s caused. However, this is still an issue that raises concern as to who the government is. Change of regime does not give the regime a punitive task to neglect of its people. This is because the regime of the time is likely to be very different from that that allowed injustices to take toll on its people (Miller, 1999).

Compensation by current governments over past injustices in countries such as Australia may not auger well with economical conditions. This is because of the larger impact the step would result. Compensating individuals would only mean that the common citizens including the ones to be compensated would have to dig deeper into their pockets to foot these provision. These would bring more problems to the society as there would be an outcry on over taxation.

Compensation is actually the best way to go as far as past injustices are concerned. However, it becomes almost impossible to get the estimates of the damages caused by the injustices. This is due to the long period of time taken to have this injustices reported. Even so, it is important that these people that injustices were done on them to come forward and claim for their right. Calculation of the value of learned would be very difficult given the long period since the injustices happened.

Compensation and reparation is about indemnification and not gaining from a given situation. Reparation should only happen for those that have lost or had an injury. This puts the plight of the descendants at crossroads. Given the long periods of years taken to have these cases attended to, it is definite that the impact is less felt in those that are living. This would mean that compensation would not be necessary (Jeremy, 1992).

Robert Nozick acknowledges that reparation cannot take place on various injustices such as murder and mistreatments. He argues that what many people try to also s not reparation but rectification. This is the case with various incidences as compensation is done in terms of monetary value. This means that the real pourpose4 for restitution is not served. Mostly, current compensation schemes are aimed at psychologically calming the aggrieved persons (Thompson, 2004).

In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls looks at reparation from the current family line satisfaction perspective. This is actually the case in countries such as New Zealand. Through this perspective, we get a glimpse of how those in authority try to have their family lines taken carte off. This explains why in most cases, claims for reparation would always be based on groups, though individuals would have their own stakes. These individuals would hide in the cocoons of groups such as ethnic groups to have their course taking stage.

According to David Miller, in his works, Holding Nations Responsible group claims of reparations are mostly genuine but only under certain conditions. He has well brought out the issue by looking at the current state of poor nations and atrocities committed by the rich nations to the poor nations. It is definite that time makes it difficult to ascertain as to what extent a nation has been injured or harmed by other nation or groups. It is also not certain that the conditions of the citizens of that country are a result of the injustices committed in the past (Miller, 1999).

Miller has done a good analysis in distinguishing the responsibilities of governments whenever past injustices are revisited. According to Miller, there must be distinctions between outcome responsibility and remedial responsibility. In looking at these two responsibilities, it is clear that governments can be held responsible for atrocities committed by it. However, in most cases these atrocities are committed by individuals within or without the governments who have their own interests. As such, it would be wrong for all responsibility be blamed on the government. Even during the colonial times in the twentieth Century, not all citizens in colonizing countries were for the idea of keeping of the colonies. Some of these decisions were out of the vested interests of the leaders in those countries at that time (Jeremy, 1992).

From analysis carried out by Miller and Thompsons, it is very clear that reparation for past injustices is not an easy thing. It can make or break a group, a society or even a nation. This is mainly because of the unearthed stories behind the injustices and the long past time that would not make the situation easy to gauge and know what next. It is difficult to get the extent to which an injustice was done when it took place decades ago. Such would require a deep analysis with support from the affected persons (victims). What is very definite is that claims of restitution are here to stay. They are an indication of freedom to express and enjoy ones rights.



Jeremy W. (1992), Superseding Historic Injustice, Chicago Journals, Chicago; University of Chicago

Miller D. (1999), Holding Nations Responsible, New York: Routledge

Thompson J. (2004), Historical Injustice and Reparation: Justifying Claims of Descendants, New York: SAGE



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