Through June and July, human rights lawyers, archeologists, forensic anthropologists, students and development specialists gathered in Huancavelica and Ayacucho, high in the Peruvian Andes, for EPAF’s 2014 Field School.
EPAF’s Field School represents an opportunity for EPAF to share its expertise and model with those working on issues of forced disappearance throughout the world. The main purpose of this interdisciplinary Field School is to bring professionals and university students out of the academic/theoretical world and to take them to Andean indigenous communities to have direct contact with people involved in the struggle for justice, memory, and human rights.
What makes EPAF’s Field School unique is the holistic approach EPAF takes in order to assist in the struggle for restoring rights, justice and memory. Understanding that these issues cannot be separated, and are intimately connected, EPAF demonstrates its model in the Peruvian context and provides concrete experiences for professionals and students to use in their future work and research. Drawing on the same communities affected by the conflict and local expertise unique to EPAF, the students take testimonials, attend meetings, memorialize and walk side-by-side with those most affected by the conflict
EPAF’s Field School leaves the students with an appreciation for the commonality of situations where there have been forced disappearances, regardless of the country, culture or history. While each case is unique, there are common themes of the violation of human rights; marginalization and “de-citizenization” of the victims in every country where there have been individuals disappeared. Additionally, the students of the Field School return to their respective countries carrying the message of the need to address the fundamental loss or denial of rights that contributed to the victimization in the first place.
EPAF’s model revolves around empowering and reintegrating those affected by the conflict through interventions designed to allow a local process of memorialization to take place. EPAF sees its work as an invitation to remember and not one of a number of external impositions that have proven ineffective. In EPAF’s experience the process of memorialization leads to empowerment and empowerment leads to change; the fundamental type of change that seeks to address underlying problems and restore citizenship to marginalized and forgotten people and communities. EPAF’s support to organize and develop victims associations has provided representation and visibility to people previously invisible and disregarded.
By expanding its Field School concept and with the steadily increasing number of alumni, EPAF hopes to fundamentally change how work in the field of transitional justice is conducted. Fundamentally, the tragedy of forced disappearances is a result of the victim’s loss of rights or, the lack of existence of the rights to begin with. Memory and memorialization projects are a part of a larger strategy to restore rights, empower victims and their families and ultimately, restore citizenship. This is the innovative vision that EPAF carries as it expands its work and model within Peru and around the world.
Posted By Thomas Bradley (Peru)
Posted Jul 30th, 2014