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“Restorative Justice, Reconciliation and International Relations”

Thompson, Janna
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Hawaii, Mar 05, 2005.

Restorative justice requires perpetrators of injustice to make redress to their victims for harms that they have caused. In international affairs, demands for restorative justice arise (for example) when states or nations seek the return of territory seized from them by acts of aggression; when states require reparations from a defeated enemy for losses incurred in fighting a just war; or when people seek compensation for injuries done to them by the officials or citizens of another state. Restorative justice, according to most accounts, requires rectification: that victims be restored to the situation they were in before the injustice took place or receive compensation equal to the value of what they have lost – so far as this is possible. However, this ideal of justice, though intuitively plausible, is often impossible to achieve and its pursuit may have undesirable effects – particularly in international relations. Demands for rectification become especially problematic when injustices are historical. In these cases it may be impossible to restore what was lost or even impossible to determine what injuries ought to be compensated for. Restoration is likely to be unjust to those whose lives have come to depend on the conditions that resulted from the injustice and unjust to those who had no responsibility for the deeds of past generations. Should we then ignore the injustices of the past and concentrate on establishing just relations here and now? But for many people this is not a satisfactory option. Injustices haunt the memories of members of political communities and blight their relationships with others. Moreover, recent and historical injustices are often inseparably related. I will present ‘reconciliatory’ approaches to historical injustices as satisfactory means of coming to terms with the wrongs of the past and avoiding the problems associated with restorative justice. (author’s abstract)


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