Source: (2002) Buffalo Criminal Law Review. 5(2): 509-549.

In many countries around the world, societies and international institutions are trying to decide how they should reckon with past atrocities committed by their own people within their own borders. It is common to believe that trials and punishment, on the one hand, and reconciliation, on the other, are mutually incompatible. A nation must choose one or the other – and reconciliation is commonly viewed to be superior to punishment. David Crocker in this article assesses the arguments of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in defending the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s granting of amnesty to wrongdoers who revealed the truth about their past actions. In the course of his assessment, Crocker argues that retribution, properly conceived, is an appropriate aim of punishment and that it differs significantly from vengeance. Moreover, he contends that a society must be wary of overestimating the restorative effect of amnesty and forgiveness and underestimating the reconciling power of justice. In his view, punishment and reconciliation, when properly conceived, are both morally urgent goals that can be combined in morally appropriate ways.

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