Kelly-Jo Bluen

Legal researcher, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

Kelly-Jo Bluen is a researcher focusing on international relations and international justice. She is the project leader for international justice at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, where she runs projects on the geopolitics of international justice and justice for conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.

She also works and writes on various issues pertaining to the politics and practices of justice including AU-ICC relations, the role of commissions of inquiry in accountability processes, and systemic issues surrounding conflict and terrorism. She holds a BA honours in international relations from the University of Cape Town and a double master’s in international affairs from the London School of Economics and Peking University, for which she was a South African Chevening Scholar.

She writes for different policy and media platforms and, until recently, wrote a regular column for the South African daily, Business Day. “I have always been horrified by injustice and by the systemic issues that continue to allow for the proliferation of unjust systems,” she says. “I am interested in the relationships between law and justice in addressing these issues.

The law globally is a powerful instrument that can work against oppression and marginalisation, but many aspects of law are embedded in these structures of power, and law does not necessarily equate to justice. “Very often it is tethered to the same power structures of racism, misogyny, homophobia, classism, ableism, and transphobia that foment the very problems it is trying to solve. I am committed to looking at what the law can contribute, and thinking through where it can’t, and how international and domestic legal systems can be more just.”

Bluen works on several aspects of international relations and international justice. “I am committed to working towards accounting for broader notions of wartime sexual violence, and to trying to think through policy-oriented approaches that move beyond narrow narratives of gender-based violence in war, which can exclude a lot of victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.” She is also working on a project on the politics of international justice, which looks at ways in which the international justice system might be more equitable.

“We look at how justice systems deal with historical crimes and historical antecedents to current conflicts, how economic networks, colonial histories and systemic conditions play into current conflicts, and how we might imagine broader possibilities for justice, redress and accountability for these crimes,” she says.

— Kerry Haggard

Twitter: @Kellyjobluen