Over the past 50 years, Colombia has experienced intense socio-political violence associated with its internal armed conflict. As a result of this violence, long and complicated processes of land dispossession have taken place throughout the country, and more than seven million people have been internally displaced. Currently, the Colombian state is implementing a Land Restitution Program, which aims to restitute the dispossessed lands and to transform deep inequalities associated with massive forced displacement. This case study on both the complexities of the land takings in Colombia and the Land Restitution Program’s ambitious goals contributes to strengthening the socio-legal concepts of dignity takings and dignity restoration.

In this study, I develop a set of variables to empirically assess the extent to which a property takings case involves dignity takings. Applying this set of variables, I find that land dispossession victims in Colombia have suffered different forms of dignity deprivation and yet, only some of them reach the level of dehumanization or infantilization. Moreover, my analysis shows that paying more attention to the context, historical processes leading to property loss, and the particular position of the land-taking victims in a community can capture fundamental elements to achieve a deeper understanding of dignity deprivation. Therefore, the interaction between widespread violence, deep inequalities, and land dispossession is critical to comprehend the effects of dignity takings processes.

By using a content analysis of judicial rulings and semi-structured interviews with officials, I analyze the Land Restitution Program’s transformative goals and foster a conversation between the concepts of dignity restoration and transformative reparation. Based on this conversation, I suggest that dignity restoration can play a significant role in transitional contexts beyond those that fit the concept of dignity takings, particularly if dignity restoration is considered a remedy for massive human rights violations.