Tensions in Transitional Justice
AFTER GENOCIDE: TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE, POST-CONFLICT RECONSTRUCTION, AND RECONCILIATION IN RWANDA AND BEYOND, pp. 381-391, Phil Clark & Zachary D. Kaufman, eds., Columbia University Press and C. Hurst & Co., 2009 (Re-published by Oxford University Press, 2013)
11 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2011 Last revised: 11 Jun 2013
Date Written: 2009
This book chapter (co-authored by Phil Clark, Zachary D. Kaufman, & Kalypso Nicolaidis) is the final chapter in the book After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, and Reconciliation in Rwanda (co-edited by Phil Clark & Zachary D. Kaufman and co-published by Columbia University Press & C. Hurst & Co.). This concluding chapter explores tensions in transitional justice.
Transitional justice resembles the minefields it is meant to transcend. Whether for analysts or practitioners, this field requires both extreme prudence and bold risk-taking. As this book demonstrates, transitional justice is a nascent yet dynamic field in which key concepts and their bearing upon concrete conflict and post-conflict situations are constantly defined and redefined. Daily realities in war-torn societies demand nuanced and specific responses attuned to the peculiar stories that have plagued and haunted them. Yet, in all of these cases, the same key themes or goals always seem to recur: reconciliation, peace, justice, healing, forgiveness, and truth. The complex contours of transitional justice research can be seen as reflecting the diversity of interpretations of these concepts and the multitude of practical approaches to conflict and post-conflict situations, often as a result of these different interpretations. In such a landscape, the Rwandan genocide and its aftermath may stand as a unique and momentous landmark in confronting atrocities, but they also exhibit the tensions that we find in transitional justice around the world and throughout history.
The purpose of this chapter is to tease out such key tensions from the rich material provided in this book. A better awareness and understanding of these tensions, the authors believe, is a necessary prerequisite for more effective study and practice of transitional justice. Some of these tensions may be avoidable, if instances of theoretical and operational ambiguity can be navigated, often by prioritizing one objective over another. Other tensions are inevitable because of the inherent complexity of the conflicts under examination and because post-conflict recovery may involve objectives of equal value. In all cases, the tensions must be identified and addressed.
This chapter proceeds in four stages. First, the authors analyze tensions within the six specific transitional justice themes explored by the contributors to this book. Second, the authors examine tensions among those themes. Third, the authors turn to the tensions caused by the practical operation of transitional justice institutions. Finally, the authors discuss the appropriateness of the term “transitional justice” to describe the range of concepts and processes explored in this book.
Keywords: Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Reconciliation, Peace, Healing, Forgiveness, Truth, Memory, Rwanda, Genocide, Atrocities, Gacaca, ICTR, ICTY, ICC, United Nations Security Council, International Law, International Criminal Law, International Humanitarian Law
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