International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

“State Change”: What Peace and Justice Change

I wanted to bring the Peace vs Justice to a direct point: If there is a dichotomy here, and a single choice, what ought we to prefer? Of course this might be the basis for many people’s final paper, but I wanted to share an a hypothesis/question that might be enlightening. Particularly in response to the Grono and O’Brien piece that begins to ask how justice–>peace and amnesty(peace)–>peace, I think the historical record is particularly interesting. The authors assert that where “peace deals that sacrifice justice often fail to produce peace”, we ought to be wary about preferring temporary “peace” as it might not mean “peace” in the long term. I think that, consulting the historical record, we will find that there are many cases where temporary peace deals lead to conflict/abuse later, but we will find almost no cases where authentic efforts of justice lead to later widespread conflict/abuse. On the first case, the authors give many examples where peace deal/amnesty–>later conflict (Sierra Leona/Angola) as well as peace deal/amnesty–>peace (Mozambique). Thus peace/amnesty/sacrificing justice can mean peace but does not even mostly mean peace. On the other hand, it is truly hard to find a case where a system that prefers justice ever leads to later return to conflict. True, many of these cases mean prolonged conflict before justice is reached (Uganda for a long period), but our history of tribunals and prosecutions hardly finds a single case of return to violence. Am I wrong? Am I missing some glaring examples? (I might be).

If this is the case, though, I suggest that it has to do with the ability of either goal to actually change the status quo. I posit that peace deals simply revert societies to a state of non-war–particularly one that allowed for the widespread crisis in the first place. Justice, on the other hand, creates a structural change in government/society, through personnel/form/status, that fundamentally alters the conditions allowing for conflict. In that sense I don’t think “peace” can be a truly transitional goal–we ought never prefer it to justice, only to allow it to inspire that justice.

In case after case, even with Neville Chamberlain, insisting on peace comes to be particularly unjust. Even in the rare case that peace deals to lead to lasting peace, there is not much to say that justice in those cases might not have been as adequate. 

Love to hear thoughts/cases where justice has led to conflict.


2 responses to ““State Change”: What Peace and Justice Change

  1. dpu26 December 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I found this neat video by the International Center for Transitional Justice that does a good job exploring the relationship between peace and justice as mutually reinforcing, rather than mutually exclusive, goals. (

    The ICTJ makes a key point when it defines peace as an “enduring and long-term peace…that goes beyond the immediate goal of ending a conflict.” As slurie mentioned, past “peace deals” that sacrifice justice often failed to produce peace in the long term. Using ICTJ’s definition then, we see that such bargaining process violate the principle of achieving a sustainable peace. I very much agree with the ICTJ in defining the aim of peace to be of the long-term sort rather than short term conflict resolution. The failure to render justice comes with a lingering shadow of past dissent that may very well erupt into violence again.

    Using this definition, peace and justice are in fact mutually reinforcing concepts. Justice for victims strengthen the rule of law, which in turn strength public faith in the law, With justice achieved, long-lasting peace becomes probable. And peace in turn strength the law and decrease future likelihood of unjust persecutions from taking place.

  2. awatt14 December 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Although this post, while logically sound, may miss some of the logistical problems with justice as the main goal. Although everyone can agree that people are deserving of justice, it is hard to determine how best to pursue this goal. Some of the problems that are raised are, which form of justice will be the best, when should justice be pursued, who should be prosecuted and who should be prosecuting. These questions make it extremely difficult to pursue justice. On the other hand the desire to pursue peace, I believe, stems from the desire to rebuild the society. There is little debate over what it means for a country to be at peace, yet there is much debate over what exactly qualifies as justice. While justice will prosecute the guilty, I do not believe that justice, as the primary goal, is enough to rebuild these war torn countries. When a country is concerned with rebuilding basic infrastructures and restoring some level of normal every day function, justice is not at the forefront of their agenda. Although pursing justice is very important, pursuing justice as the main goal after a conflict is not feasible.

%d bloggers like this: