Transitional Justice and Reconciliation: Theory and Practice
Author: Martina Fischer
Size: 26 pages (712KB)
Transitional justice is prominent in academic debates on democratisation, nation-building and state reconstruction, and has gained widespread support from international organisations. This chapter examines these debates and their practical relevance for conflict transformation and peacebuilding. It argues that not enough research has been done into the impact of transitional justice mechanisms and that therefore they need to be applied with caution. There is a need for more sustained comparative analysis and, above all, more interdisciplinary and mixed methods research on this issue.
Scholars and practitioners agree that societies that have experienced violent conflict need to deal with legacies of the past to prevent a relapse into violence. At the same time it has become clear that mechanisms aiming to promote accountability do not automatically lead to reconciliation and stable peace. Post-war societies need a combination of approaches, including for legal justice/accountability and truth recovery. Activities need to be undertaken from various levels (bottom-up and top-down) and need to address structural, behavioural and attitudinal aspects as well as the context, memory and relationships. Asymmetries in power structures, gender relations and gender-specific experiences of violence also need to be considered.
However, the impact of transitional justice mechanisms is hard to predict given the lack of empirical data. Many gaps and questions remain in theory and practice, including:
Given these continued research gaps and questions, transitional justice analysis needs first of all a sustained focus on the underlying causes of conflict. This is so that trials and truth commissions become an invitation for continuing focus on addressing societal divisions. Furthermore:
Fischer, M., 2011, 'Transitional Justice and Reconciliation: Theory and Practice', in 'Advancing Conflict Transformation: The Berghof Handbook II' eds. B. Austin, M. Fischer, H. J. Giessmann, Barbara Budrich Publishers, Opladen/Framington Hills, pp. 406-430
Organisation: Berghof Foundation, http://www.berghof-foundation.org/en/