….In each of these African countries were peace has returned and the country is moving on, the question still remains, what do you do with the human rights abuses? The irony of the debate is that the liberal peace system is in crises. The justice it presents as a pre-requisite for reconciliation does not work. The argument that for any meaningful peace to exist, there must first be justice, forgiveness and then reconciliation. It is not practical and limits the space for alternative approaches to peacemaking.
Justice and reconciliation are often associated with laying the foundations for forgiveness. Focus is on establishing truth, acknowledging harm and providing appropriate forms justice (compensation and punishment). Justice becomes a balancing of rights of victims and offenders rather than taking a stand on the breaking of trust with a community. Justice is presented as a pre-requisite for reconciliation and peace-building. There can be no forgiveness and reconciliation without justice. Justice in this context is the retributive system in which the state takes up the responsibility of carrying out justice.
This idea of â€œfirst justice then reconciliationâ€ is problematic in many ways.
Forgiveness after justice is not much different from forgiveness outside of justice. In both cases the perpetrator is treated as if the crime did not happen. In one you ignore the crime in the other you abandon vengeance (you act as if it did not happen). Forgiveness, justice and reconciliation are about communion. Iit is about community.
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