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Elster, Jon
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In, Elster, Jon,editor, Retribution and Repatriation in the Transition to Democracy Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 33-54

I shall try to assess trials and sanctions in transitional justice in the light of theories of retribution. Classical arguments for criminal punishment include special (individualized) deterrence, general deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and desert. Except for the first, they have all been used to justify punishment after the transition to democracy. I focus on general deterrence and desert, with brief comments on the two other arguments. I am not claiming that the punishments that are actually be imposed can be fully explained in light of the conceptions of retribution held by the various actors. For one thing, if in a given case different actors have different philosophies of punishment there is no metatheory telling us how to balance them against one another. For another, the adoption of specific retributive measures is affected by a host of other considerations, including party politics and economic necessities. (excerpt)


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