Why pursue transitional justice in the aftermath of massive human rights violations? “The Case for Justice” provides a window into the debate about the relevance of transitional justice in today’s world.
The complexity of this debate is best illustrated by the different myths that abound within it. Some contend transitional justice is “soft justice,” an alternative to pursuing criminal justice in the wake of mass atrocities or repression; others equate it solely with criminal trials, fully focused on perpetrators. Some view it as a key obstacle to reaching successful peace agreements; others regard it as a kind of a magic wand, a quick cure for the scars of war and abuse.
In fact, the field of transitional justice recognizes that without accountability for massive human rights abuses, societies have little hope of avoiding the recurrence of conflict or building sustainable peace. This is well captured by Eduardo Gonzalez, director of ICTJ’s Truth and Memory Program:
“The promise of transitional justice is that peace is going to be more than the cessation of hostilities, that the causes of war are going to be squarely faced and squarely dealt with. Transitional measures hold a promise of authentic sustainable democracy and sustainable peace.”