Accountability and Peace Agreements: Mapping Trends from 1980 to 2006

L Vinjamuri, A P Boesenecker


To what extent have peace agreements incorporated mechanisms for dealing with justice issues? This study from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue analyses 77 verified peace processes from around the world between 1980 and 2006. Negotiating justice is a complex and difficult process, especially within a peace agreement involving a whole range of additional issues.

Although it is widely perceived that war criminals are increasingly being made to account for their crimes, analysis of peace agreements between 1980 and 2006 suggests otherwise. There is far less provision for justice mechanisms than there is for amnesty, prisoner release and reintegration, police and military reform, or the establishment of long-term human rights commissions. Although there was a growth in the number of specific justice mechanisms during the 1990s, this trend was reversed between 2000 to 2006. This is a reflection of the overall decrease in the number of wars worldwide. It may also represent a reaction against the human rights activism of the 1990s or a scaling-back of the ambitions of mediators.

Certain groups or clusters of justice mechanisms appear throughout 1980 – 2006, reflecting instruments that mediators presumably view as mutually reinforcing and/or critical to ending conflict and moving towards peace. However, specific provisions for either trials or truth commissions rarely appear within peace agreements during this period. There are a number of possible explanations for this:

  • The fact that certain justice and accountability mechanisms are regularly included and others left out of peace negotiations suggests that mediators and participants must choose between what is ideal and what is acceptable for all participants.
  • Many of the forward-looking provisions are loosely defined and lack detail on the specifics of implementation. This may make their inclusion less controversial in the negotiating process.
  • Activity concerned with justice and accountability often takes place outside formal peace agreements.

The contribution of justice and accountability mechanisms in peace agreements needs to be evaluated in terms of their contribution to the consolidation of peace and democracy:

  • The difficulty of negotiating justice and accountability in the peace process should be further explored.
  • Political measures following peace agreements that contribute to the peace process and the negotiation of justice and accountability should be examined.
  • Efforts should be made to determine whether a justice mechanism is more effective in the peace agreement itself or elsewhere in the peace process.
  • Attention should be paid to the ‘clusters’ of justice mechanisms in peace agreements in order to provide a guide on the inclusion or exclusion of specific mechanisms for mediators and negotiators of peace agreements.
  • Research is needed to evaluate whether international or domestic actors are more likely to have a positive effect on the success of justice and accountability efforts – during negotiations and subsequently.


Vinjamuri, L. and Boesenecker, A., 2007, 'Accountability and Peace Agreements: Mapping Trends from 1980 to 2006', Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Geneva