GOVT-578 Transnational Justice: Truth Commissions, Prosecutions & Peacebuilding
Fall for 2013-2014
Transitional justice refers to the processes and mechanisms which enable a state to move from a situation of massive human rights violations and undemocratic rule to the beginning of the rule of law and participatory democracy. Central to this question is the need to ensure both peace and justice in fragile states living at the interregnum between the past and the future. Which comes first – justice or peace? Is it possible to have both? A related question concerns the relationship between justice and reconciliation? What is meant by political reconciliation? How is this distinguishable from personal reconciliation?
Those who prioritise justice argue that the promotion of international law, through mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), is imperative to prevent impunity, as an act of deterrence and to provide a basis for the establishment of the rule of law in an emerging new society.
Those who prioritize peace and reconciliation emphasize the need for political and other moral and political trade-offs that may be required to ensure peace. Under what circumstances, if at all, does this require the suspension of the demands of international law regarding genocide, crimes against humanity and
war crimes? Are there situations where restorative and distributive justice should take precedence over the demands of retributive justice? Is it possible to have both?
The course considers mechanisms of transitional justice in different historical and political contexts. These range from the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials in the latter part of the 1940s, through the international criminal tribunals of Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the emergence and proliferation of truth commissions, and the genocide trails in Cambodia. Attention is given to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an example of what truth commissions can and cannot achieve. The International Criminal Court is considered in relation to the challenges to its legitimacy from the African Union and other quarters.
Prerequisites: CORE students only
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