What does it feel like to be a victim, or a relative of the victim? What do you truly do to someone by punishing him? And where does this punishment lead? Does it help? Does the convict come out of jail worse than he went in? What is true justice?
One morning Peter Vermeersch received a letter informing him that he had been randomly selected for jury service. What seemed to be a straightforward case of robbery soon turned out to be a much more complex affair. Before he knew it, Peter found himself in the depths of the Palace of Justice in Brussels, confronting questions about the true circumstances of a murder, having to deal with the rituals of justice and a shy, unrevealing suspect. Through this experience, Peter became an advocate of restorative justice, which is great to raise awareness about our cause, as he is one of the brightest contemporary Belgian public intellectuals. In his book “Aantekeningen bij een moord” (notes from a murder), he reflects on violence, on the true value of punishment and justice today, and shares his penetrating insights on what better forms of justice and fairer laws might look like.
Scroll down to watch the book teaser and the recordings of the book presentation (on Zoom) moderated by Pieter Verbeeck from the Flemish restorative justice service Moderator.
"The principle that people should come to their senses in their cells stems from the nineteenth century"
Peter Vermeersch is a professor of politics at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the KU Leuven. He has an MA in Slavic studies and a PhD in political science. As a postdoctoral researcher he worked, among others, at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University. At the Faculty of Social Sciences in Leuven he currently leads the research group LINES (Leuven International and European Studies) and coordinates the MA International Politics (MIP). His teaching includes courses on "Political Developments in East-Central Europe," "Nationalism and Political Mobilisation," and "Russia in the Global Political Context."
His research focuses on minority politics, nationalism, democratization, and, most recently, restorative justice. His work has appeared in a range of academic journals, and he has published several academic books, among others, The Romani Movement: Minority Politics and Ethnic Mobilization in Contemporary Central Europe (Berghahn Books, 2006) and The EU Enlargement and Gay Politics (Palgrave 2016, co-edited with Koen Slootmaeckers and Heleen Touquet).
He also writes essays (like this one for De Correspondent) and literary non-fiction. In 2014, he published Ex, Over een land dat zoek is (Ex. About a Country that is Gone, De Bezige Bij), a book of reportage in and about the former Yugoslavia, which was nominated for the AKO Literature Prize, the Bob den Uyl Prize, the Golden Owl, the E. du Perron Prize, and won, in 2016, the Literature Prize of the Province of West Flanders.