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Transitional justice, restoration, and prosecution

Villa-Vicencio, Charles
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In, Dennis Sullivan and Larry Tifft editors, “Handbook of Restorative Justice” A Global Perspective. London and New York: Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group pp.387-399

Applied in different ways in different applications of justice, restorative justice has recently emerged as an important ingredient of transitional justice, which effectively seeks to find a way beyond de facto impunity within which most perpetrators of an oppressive regime are unlikely to be prosecuted and there is no obvious program of restoration in place. In most transitional societies, the existing justice system is not able to sustain a comprehensive program of retribution and the political cost of sustained prosecutions is not a viable option. Perpetrators are simply not prepared to surrender their arms if they face the possibility of prosecution. In this situation transitional justice offers an alternative with which to counter crass impunity through conditional amnesty and reparations. It is grounded primarily in the South African political and legal transition from apartheid rule to the beginning of democratic rule. The particularities of this process suggest nuances and insights relevant to the more general debate on justice – not least regarding the tension between retribution and restorative justice. (excerpt)


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