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Justice and reconciliation challenges

Justice and reconciliation challenges

Models of justice

The pursuit of reconciliation and redress raises a range of complex questions about the goals, scope and limitations of justice, particularly in post-conflict environments. These questions have both practical and theoretical implications, and have been approached by philosophers as well as lawyers, practitioners, and students of politics and religion. Key issues include: negotiating inter-generational claims, distributing responsibility for past wrongs, and striking the correct balance between the ‘forward-looking’ and ‘backward-looking’ aspects of redress—that is, to what extent should justice be retributive, restorative, or distributive? Are criminal justice and reconciliation mutually exclusive? If not, how can these approaches be integrated? Are justice and reconciliation best pursued at the local, national or international levels? What roles do punishment and forgiveness play in post-conflict justice? While there are certainly no hard and fast answers to these questions, reflection on these theoretical debates, their practical impact, and their significance for displaced populations in particular is an essential part of improving approaches to transitional justice.

Foxman, A. (1998) 'The Dangers of Holocaust Restitution', Wall Street Journal, 4 December.
IDRC Project, Community Justice as Restorative Justice in Colombia
Prison Fellowship International Restorative Justice On-line
Rettberg, A. (ed.) (2005) Between Pardon and Retribution, Ottawa: International Development Research Centre. (Spanish)

Public participation in reparations and reconciliation

Reconciliation and redress are complex, multi-faceted processes often involving hundreds of thousands of people from the grassroots to the level of national and international politics. As reparation and reconciliation are negotiated processes, displaced populations should have the opportunity to participate in decision-making on the types and structure of remedies offered for human rights violations, and local and national approaches to reconciliation. However, public participation in the negotiation of redress is unfortunately rare in practice. Nonetheless, researchers have been able to document several key cases of leadership from displaced communities in the negotiations process. For example, Guatemalan refugees in Mexico organised themselves into Permanent Commissions which, with the support of the international community, became influential actors in the national peace process. The Permanent Commissions engaged directly with the Guatemalan government to negotiate the conditions of their repatriation, including the establishment of a land restitution programme. Within Guatemala, small groups of IDPs bonded together to form Communities of Peoples in Resistance, which also reached agreements with the government on restitution. There is a need for further research on the decision-making, advocacy and organisational strategies employed by different groups of displaced persons. In addition, there is a dearth of information on how public participation influences the success of reparation and reconciliation programmes, and how programmes informed by popular participation fare in comparison to those that are not.

Public participation in the negotiation and implementation of reparations and reconciliation programmes may help to shape favourable public opinions towards redress, repatriation and reintegration of the displaced. These issues are explored in a growing body of public opinion studies that have been carried out in a variety of post-conflict contexts (for e.g. Stover and Weinstein 2004).

Armon, J., Sieder, R. and Wilson, R. (eds.) (1997) Negotiating Rights: The Guatemalan Peace Process, London, Conciliation Resources.
Barnes, C. (ed.) (2000) 'Owning the Process: Public Participation in Peacemaking', Accord: An international review of peace initiatives 13.
Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act Redress Campaign
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (1994) Special Report on the Human Rights Situation in the so-called "Communities of Peoples in Resistance" in Guatemala, Washington, D.C., Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
International Center for Transitional Justice and Human Rights Center of University of California, Berkeley (2005) Forgotten Voices: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Peace and Justice in Northern Uganda, New York, ICTJ.
Ouko, M. (2004) 'From warriors to peacemakers: People-to-people peacemaking in southern Sudan', Forced Migration Review 21: 28-29.
Riess, S. (2000) 'Return is Struggle, Not Resignation: Lessons from the Repatriation of Guatemalan Refugees from Mexico', UNHCR New Issues in Refugee Research Working Paper No. 21.
Women Waging Peace

Reparations, reconciliation and gender

Reparation and reconciliation processes often reflect and even exacerbate inequalities between men and women. While some scholars working in the field of reconciliation and transitional justice have effectively integrated gender analyses into their work, a significant proportion of the literature still fails to consistently engage with the gendered nature of human rights violations, displacement and redress. However, there is a notable body of work that specifically focuses on questions of gender, displacement and remedies for human rights abuses. Much of this research was sparked by the adoption in October 2000 of the groundbreaking Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which calls on all actors involved in negotiating and implementing peace agreements to adopt a gender perspective that addresses 'the special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction'. Major issues for research have included the prosecution of sexual crimes such as systematic rape by the ICTY and ICTR; the provisions made for prosecuting gendered crimes under the statutes of international courts such as the ICC; women-led campaigns for reparations and reconciliation; and the gendered impact of real property restitution programmes.

Farha, L. (2000) 'Women's Rights to Land, Property and Housing', Forced Migration Review 7.
IDRC: Gender and Reparations: Opportunities for Transitional Democracies?
Rehn, E. and Sirleaf, E.J. (2002) Women War Peace: The Independent Experts' Assessment, New York, UNIFEM.
UNIFEM Portal on Women, Peace and Security
Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children
Last updated Aug 17, 2011