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“Mass violence and ubutabera: Exploring the boundaries of justice and reconciliation in post-genocide Germany and Rwanda.�?

Holland, Frederick Peter
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) Ph.D. Dissertation, The Claremont Graduate University.

This dissertation is about the difficulties posed for traditional conceptions of justice when both state and citizenry are complicit in the commission of the radical crime of genocide. The sheer numbers of people involved in such crimes, as well as the unique nature of the crime itself, present enormously complex problems for justice, and, by extension, the human-rights ideals of civilized peoples in the twentieth (and now twenty-first) century.
Using actual juridical and other formal responses to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide as empirical grounding, two conceptions of justice (punitive and restorative) are tested against these real-world problems and outcomes.
The “boundaries” of justice in these cases are the limits of punishment and forgiveness, neither of which can cope with criminality on this scale. As a result, the best we can hope for is a partial, incomplete justice, a justice that leaves huge numbers of people (the majority of the perpetrators) unpunished, and (probably) unnamed and unacknowledged, and hence points to the inadequacy of traditional conceptions of retributive justice in such cases. I argue that the scale of such crimes simply overwhelms the scope of this traditional conception of justice, and thus requires a broader, more socially transformative approach with an eye to future generations. The proposed solution, like the reach of traditional justice, is also a partial and incomplete one–functional “noble lie” that creates a shift in a peoples’ sense of themselves, a “noble lie” that brings about a fundamental transformation of national ethos, or “re-identification”–a process that, at best, takes place over much time and many generations. It is a process which (at best) evolves over time, and gradually permits a people release from the ontological burdens imposed by history, memory, and guilt.


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