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Peace versus justice? The dilemma of transitional justice in Africa.

Lekha Sriram, Chandra
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press

The so-called peace versus justice dilemma arises following violent conflict, in
which victims and their families, local and international non-governmental
organisations (NGOs), and other actors in the international community often
demand that some form of accountability be imposed on the perpetrators of
gross human rights violations and war crimes. Those calling for accountability
frequently insist that it must be pursued for the sake of the victims, their survivors,
society at large, deterrence and the (re)building of democracy and the rule of
law. Those seeking to promote peacebuilding (a broad range of activities to ensure
that conflict does not re-emerge) may concur that there is value in seeking
accountability, but raise concerns that it may destabilise fragile post-conflict states.
These two positions often form the poles of the so-called peace versus justice
debate, which deals with the critical policy decisions made about accountability
in the context of peacemaking and peacebuilding. This dichotomous dilemma is
often overstated. In reality the choice is seldom simply ‘justice’ or ‘peace’ but
rather a complex mixture of both. The practice of transitional justice, as it has
emerged over the past 25 years or so, offers a range of options to states emerging
from conflict, including truth commissions, domestic trials, international and
hybrid tribunals and traditional justice mechanisms. Much can be learned from
earlier experiences of transition in southern Europe and Latin America that may
help to inform African countries considering transitional justice processes.1 This
volume takes account of those prior transitions, while focusing on the challenges
and practices of pursuing peace and justice in Africa. (excerpt)


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