Realising Restorative Justice – Human Rights and Personal Realities

Realising Restorative Justice – Human Rights and Personal Realities

9th International Conference of the European Forum for Restorative Justice 22-24 June 2016

Marian Liebmann

This conference takes place every two years and is a wonderful chance to meet all sorts of people involved in restorative justice across Europe. There were even one or two people from Canada and Australia who felt it worth their while to travel the distance to meet European colleagues.

The conference was organised around six main themes:

  1. Human rights and restorative justice
  2. Dignity and equality – RJ and vulnerable      groups
  3. Liberty and access to justice – RJ and detention
  4. Freedom of movement and protection from      persecution – RJ and the refugees
  5. Security, justice and prohibition of discrimination      – RJ and radicalisation
  6. Education, the arts and cultural life – RJ      and creativity

The conference was held in the beautiful old city of Leiden in the Netherlands, with canals and old buildings all around. I was lucky enough to be able to stay with Servas hosts (Servas is a peace and friendship organisation providing hospitality for travellers) who lent me a Dutch bike to cycle to and from the university (the oldest in the Netherlands) where the conference was held.

I gave a presentation of how to build a restorative city (something we are trying to do in Bristol) and met people doing similar things in Netherlands, Sardinia and Canada. There were plenary sessions on penal aspects, human rights and personal realities. The highlight was a talk by a young black man whose family had emigrated from Curacao (still a Dutch colony) to Netherlands and had joined gangs and become involved in serious crime. He received a long prison sentence but turned a corner after meeting two of his victims. He now mentors young people involved in or on the edges of crime.

I attended workshops on RJ and domestic violence in Europe, on sociotherapy in Rwandan prisons, trauma-informed RJ in a South African prison, RJ in prison settings in Netherlands and Serbia, RJ and mentally disordered offenders. There were six sets of six parallel workshops, so there was also plenty I was unable to attend. And now I need to send various documents to the many people I met!

The Referendum on leave/ remain in the EU took place during the conference. All the British delegates had voted by post and (as one might imagine) voted to remain. So it was a sad day for the whole conference the next morning. The chief executive of the European Forum for RJ organised us into a circle in the lecture theatre to show solidarity with their British colleagues.