International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Distinct Norms In Transitional Justice

American Exceptionalism

Is there a stronger argument in favor of the distinctiveness of moral and ethical norms as opposed to legal norms? How do moral norms come to be legal norms?

The transitional justice debates are complicated in that domestic criminal systems have long assumed that if someone murders or commits a felony along those lines, they should be prosecuted and put to prison, but unless one is a state official, that norm didn’t apply. How does this moral norm slowly translating to a(n international) legal norm justify what was once an exception? How does the strength of criminal accountability shift as leaders take on more power? Individuals capable of violating human rights are powerful security forces in military, and very often these folks benefit greatly from repression. They then go on to repress others to take on more political power, they punish their political opponents, and they gain economic wealth. It is when the costs get higher with prosecution that it diminishes violations. This is an interesting interaction between domestic legal norms and international moral norms translated to international legal norms.

Powerful nations set as an exception to the global trend of prosecutions, but are powerful nations like the U.S. affected by the justice cascade? When I think about the Civil Rights Movement, I wonder how it is decided to pardon so many who have abused, violated, and even killed African Americans at the time. The justice cascade provides accounts of specific human rights prosecutions by singling out Africa, Latin America and Europe, but this could be quite corrosive. Perhaps more should underpin the justice cascade in the U.S. (and Asia) too.




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