International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Transitional Justice and the EU

On Friday, the European Union (EU) won the Nobel Peace Prize “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe” (source). Because this award touches on many concepts that the class has discussed in the past two weeks, I wanted to explore the role of EU in the realm of transitional justice.

About two years ago, ICTJ’s Laura Davis wrote a report titled “The European Union and Transitional Justice”. In summary, many of the EU member countries have experienced legacies of mass violence and the reconciliation process that followed. The EU is very committed to “promoting peace, to the protection of the EU’s rights and to strict observance and the development of international law.” However, the report also states that the EU has no strict policy on transitional justice. Rather, it has a three-fold plan to combat impunity, which is outlined on page 11 of the report.

It is interesting because the EU, despite being lauded this past Friday for the advancement of peace and reconciliation, has largely been a donor rather than an actor in the field of transitional justice. It provides political and financial support to the ICC, ICTY, ICTR, truth commissions, etc. The lack of a formal transitional justice policy raises concerns about how the EU addresses transitional justice. By providing so many sources of funding for different transitional justice institutions and ventures, the EU is essentially borrowing definitions of transitional justice from different places—this may lead to conflicting stances on transitional justice by the EU. As the report suggests, the EU should create its own policy and approach to transitional justice. On another hand, the EU encompasses a variety of countries with distinct cultures—perhaps the EU is doing its role as a facilitator and supporter of transitional justice and striking a balance between international norms and respect for local traditions and cultures? In this way, the EU avoids some of the problems outlined by Leebaw in the paper, “The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice” and allows other institutions, such as the ICC, to do what they believe is the best.


3 responses to “Transitional Justice and the EU

  1. shell373 October 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    The rest of the world can learn from EU’s role in transitional justice, especially in terms of reconciliation, and healing. Current land disputes taking place in East Asia can certainly follow the example of reconciliation and healing efforts made by the German government after WWII, i.e., acceptance of the atrocities done, while making efforts to bring about reconciliation.

    EU’s role in peacemaking also shows a dire need of a universal organization that can intervene to stop violence, without so many delays or political entanglements, i.e., Bosnia, Rwanda, and Sudan. The timing of the Nobel peace prize is rather controversial in that EU, while having participated in peacemaking and reconciliation after WWII, has played a critical role in bringing about the downfall of global economy for the past few years to present.

    • branwall1 October 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      The timing is certainly controversial. But as, I believe, the committee intended, awarding the EU the prize now serves a dual purpose: It simultaneously manages to congratulate it on its historic efforts toward world peace and, hopefully, will encourage it to soldier through the economic crisis and resiliently rebound to again be a prominent and powerful force in peacemaking–rather than simply a pooling of nations quarreling over economic turmoil. Nevertheless, awarding the prize now highlights the conflict that has arisen within the EU as a result of the euro crisis. Hopefully the increased attention that inevitably results from such a decision inspires the EU to regroup and strengthen, instead of generating additional conflict.


  2. smshetty October 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    I also find the EU to be a curious model for regulating and/or facilitating international and transitional justice. It’s mentioned that the EU serves as more of a donor than an actor in the realm of transitional justice, which I think is a crucial point, and one which reflects a philosophy that rejects instituting an international, set-in-stone system for transitional justice.

    This begs an important question: would it, in fact, be wise for transitional justice to acquire one, overarching, catch-all definition and manifestation? In class, we’ve discussed models such at South Africa’s TRC, the Nuremberg Trials, and the various cases of the ICC. All these scenarios differ in very important ways, from citizen involvement to the nuances of prosecution, granting amnesty, and how to best achieve reconciliation. Bodies like the EU have avoided supporting one model over another, and this is perhaps for the best: it would be difficult to ascertain, given the cultural differences between nations and circumstantial differences between human rights violations in various countries, which model should be best implemented in the transitional justice process. If we look at Sikkink’s anecdotal retellings of the sundry ways in which justice was delivered to dictators and tyrants, we see that no solution can really be said to be undeniably more efficient and effective than another. It’ll be interesting, then, to see if the field of transitional justice moves toward acceptance of a single system or model for accomplishing its goals, or if it will continue to accept the differing models countries have used in the past.

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