Social memory and the impact of commemorative remedies ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Moshe Hirsch*, Milad A.Said Barguil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social memory studies start from the premise that people acquire their memories not only through individual means, but through social processes as well. Social groups often provide materials for memory, and prod individuals into recalling particular events. One of the distinctive differences between the practice of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerns memory-related remedies. While the IACtHR quite frequently orders respondent states to commemorate grave violations of human rights (including the construction of monuments), the ECtHR has refrained from granting such commemorative remedies. Some organizations representing victims have called upon additional tribunals to embrace the IACtHR's remedial approach to address grave breaches of international law. Drawing on social memory scholarship, this study is aimed at empirically assessing the impact of four sites of memory in Colombia established by order of the IACtHR. The study's findings suggest that international tribunals alone cannot shape collective memories that are inconsistent with sociocultural features characterizing the local society. On the other hand, judicially-ordered sites of memory are meaningful for the victims' families and small-scale social units. These findings turn our attention to micro-level sociological perspectives, and particularly to the symbolic-interactionist approach to international law, highlighting the vital symbolic role of international tribunals for individuals and small social units. The valuable role of such memorial sites for the victims' relatives and related communities suggests that international tribunals addressing grave human rights violations should consider granting commemorative remedies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)9-31
Number of pages23
JournalLeiden Journal of International Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law in association with the Grotius Centre for International Law, Leiden University.


  • Inter-American Court of Human Rights
  • collective memory
  • international human rights law
  • international law
  • international tribunals
  • sociology of law


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