International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Forgiving and Forgetting

The concept of local traditional justice, just as Huyse/Allen/Iliff/Ingelaere have discussed, seems to be like a reversion to a system more relatable pre-conflict and pre-colonization in a now westernized, war-torn state. While it appears to be a beneficial system to many local African communities, as probably other communities worldwide, the concept has not been fully developed to address its flaws of legitimacy and authority. Because it is difficult to codify traditional justice, due to its varying ritualistic practices based on community cultures, there is no one traditional justice system that would work for any given set of people. The excerpts we have now read all do seem to address the following: ICC intervention is a Western imposition that ignores the realities and cultural attitudes present in the already-discussed African societies. It is a counterproductive system because it views and labels committers of crimes as criminals, causing the accused (like the LRA) to be in opposition to peace deals. Instead, under traditional justice approaches, criminals are simply seen as citizens once led astray, with the ability to be forgiven and assimilated back into society. If this is currently the most effective form of justice for certain African communities (such as Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Northern Uganda, Rwanda, and Mozambique), then could traditional justice combat its current systemic flaws by working more closely with state authorities for resources and support? Could state cooperation occur while these communities simultaneously work to preserve their ritualistic nature? And what about punishment–would more effective punishments (a step further than community service, reparative deals, and occasional imprisonment) work to set precedent, and therefore avoid the repeat of certain crimes? For now, my fear is that forgiving means forgetting.


One response to “Forgiving and Forgetting

  1. mfcarpenter December 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I think you’ve raised good points here about traditional justice, and whether forgiving is forgetting. But, the criticisms of local justice always brought me to one question, similar to yours, who is supposed to benefit from justice? Criticisms of traditional justice include the lack of authority and legitimacy — but if those ritualistic ceremonies resolve the tension and conflict for the community, then why should anyone (including the state and foreign states) impinge on that process? Who exactly is the audience for pursuing justice?

    This immediately begs the question, then, why shouldn’t every criminal be dealt with by their local communities? This isn’t my point. The ICC doesn’t hold trials for lower level (or mid-level) criminals — even many international tribunals and truth commissions are designed to address the crimes of the elite criminals. Those that were the decision-makers and systematic plotters absolutely should be held accountable for international crimes. But for those who were often captured, as in Uganda, forced to be criminals, and sincerely wished to join their communities once again the local traditional methods of resolution should proceed without international scrutiny. The international community is not the recipients of justice, and the crimes committed did not affect them directly — it’s the people of the communities that need resolution, and if they’ve found it then let them be.

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