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Extraordinary Evil, Ordinary Crime: A Framework for Understanding Transitional Justice.

Aukerman, Miriam
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) Harvard Human Rights Journal. 15: 39.

According to Miriam Aukerman, the debate about the use of prosecutions in transitional justice has focused on the conditions that permit prosecuting those who commit human rights violations. That is, while some advocate the use of prosecutions, and others argue against prosecutions, they share the same premise: prosecutions are the right method for dealing with past atrocities. Their disagreement lies in whether prosecutions are feasible in particular situations. In this perspective, alternative methods of dealing with the past, such as truth commissions, are inferior substitutes for prosecutions. Aukerman claims that the rationale behind the preference for prosecution is the assumption that atrocious human rights violations are in fact crimes, and the Western conceptual framework for dealing with ordinary crime revolves around prosecutors, judges, and trials. In this context, Aukerman asks whether ordinary crime really is an appropriate analogy for massive human right atrocities – or, extraordinary evil. To explore this issue, she examines why societies prosecute and punish “common criminals,â€? and she questions whether prosecutions constitute the best method of redressing criminal actions in the context of transitional justice.


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