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Frenemies: restorative justice and customary mechanisms of justice.

Vieille, Stephanie
June 4, 2015

Source: (2013) Contemporary Justice Review. 16(2):174-192.

More often than not, restorative justice is said to take roots in Indigenous practices. In fact, Indigenous and other traditional mechanisms of justice are often described as examples of restorative justice practices. In New Zealand, the government equates the Mãori approach to doing justice with family group conferences (FGC); a restorative justice mechanism which it claims embodies Mãori values and preferences. This article contends, however, that the type of ‘justice’ embodied in customary mechanisms, has often been taken out of context, and rendered universal and ahistorical through its representation as restorative justice mechanisms. Using fieldwork evidence, an analytical comparison between principles of restorative practices, New Zealand’s FGCs and the Mãori approach to justice was conducted. It concludes that this tendency to equate restorative justice with Indigenous approaches to law and justice is harmful and dangerous for it risks rendering the scholarship homogenizing and universalizing restorative justice, to the detriment of local preferences and practices. (author’s abstract)


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