International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

What is the “Case for Justice”?

This video from the International Center for Transitional Justice makes the “case for justice” by highlighting different examples of countries in transition from violence (e.g. Colombia, Egypt, DRC, Uganda, Cambodia, etc.) and where there are impunity gaps.

  • What arguments does ICTJ make for why justice is necessary?
  • What are the different obstacles to accountability across the cases?
  • How does ICTJ’s conception of “justice” compare to those we discussed in class and in the assigned readings?
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4 responses to “What is the “Case for Justice”?

  1. motoole9 January 26, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    The ICTJ makes several arguments for why justice is necessary. According to the ICTJ, in order for a society to move on to a peaceful, prosperous, and more democratic future, that society must address the wrongs and injustices of the past. Bringing perpetrators to justice and holding them accountable is not only necessary for peace, prosperity, and democracy in the short-run, but it is necessary for these ideals to endure in the long-run. ICTJ argues that justice is also inseparably linked to development and security and that it is essential for restoring dignity to a society’s citizens. Additionally, justice deters future uprisings because justice addresses the causes of war and gets at the root of the conflict. In the cases portrayed in this video, it is clear that varying obstacles exist to prevent accountability from being achieved. In Cambodia, for instance, for a long time many Cambodians did not know of the abuses that happened in their country in the 1930s, which presents the challenge of holding wrongdoers accountable when citizens are unaware of what they should be holding them accountable for. In the case of Columbia, the fact that violence is so intertwined with economic and political power poses a challenge to accountability, as violence is so deeply entrenched within and sustained by the structure of the society. Meanwhile, in Uganda it is essential that reparations and support be given to the people so that they can rebuild and recover. Only after this support has been given can accountability be pursued in the form of prosecuting the perpetrators. This concept of justice is very akin to the ways in which we have thus far characterized and learned of justice. The ICTJ, like our past characterizations, focus on justice as processes that uphold the rule of law and the value of human life. Justice is holding perpetrators accountable for their wrongdoings, but it is also giving reparations, a voice, and support to the victims of these wrongdoings.

  2. tlunn January 27, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Perhaps the most striking argument of the ICTJ for the use of transitional justice is that it enables any and all progress. Without transitional justice, according to the ICTJ, the status quo will never truly change from the ways of the past. Social, political, and economic institutions that have been so long rooted in the past are unable to change whilst any notion validating the events of the past is present. On a more personal level, the ICTJ supposes that transitional justice – e.g. by means of truth commissions in events of disappearances – is the only way for people to proceed without the past burdening them. The ICTJ clearly acknowledges difficulties with the processes. For instance, they show that Egypt is facing numerous issues being able to proceed from the actual overthrow of Mubarak. The implementations of how widespread violence and other heinous acts are – across regions and institutions – also shows how difficult it is to truly repair every aspect. The ICTJ seems to hold justice as being on both the victims and the perpetrators. By means of trials and truth commissions, the ICTJ accepts the conventional form of justice in which the perpetrators bear the burden of the crimes. On the other hand, the ICTJ stresses that this “justice” will not be complete until the victims are fully able to move on. By means of learning what happened, telling their voices, and being able to united, the victims will then have “justice” with which they will be able to form the civil society and peace to guide their states into the future. This seems to be similar to Philpott’s notion that reconciliation and justice, which in turn includes reconciliatory measures, are necessary for each other and the only way to truly restore societies.

  3. Tiffany Cheng January 28, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    I would agree with a majority of the points made by my classmates regarding the importance of ICTJ in building a peaceful and stable democratic society. It is imperative that we address the failures and wrong doings of the past in order to create a successful future; however, I believe the points made in the video emphasize a different aspect than what we covered in class and in our readings. The ICTJ seems to highlight the importance of justice and individual accountability for the sake of improving society as a whole rather than focusing on the individual members of society and the importance of reconciliation. While justice is crucial in transforming a society, there should be a greater emphasis on reconciling members of society and state officials to truly see a difference in the quality and standard of life. As mentioned in Jens Meierhenrich’s article, reconciliation necessitates bilateral action; therefore, we can assume that reconciliation encompasses the idea of justice achieved at an individual level. Justice is the key to improving the governmental system, but the relationship between members within a society and government officials will make or break any sort of change in the political system.

  4. krissylik February 1, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    The ICTJ makes a compelling case for international justice, one that would seem foolish to challenge. It highlights, especially, the need to set a precedent and establish a definitive change from past regimes. In the case of Egypt this is the main goal, after overthrowing the autocrat Mubarak there can be no regression into past practices. In order to change the future, they must prosecute and recognize the atrocities committed in the past. This idea that moving forward requires looking back is one that I could challenge at the state building level. In order to maintain stability in a region following acts of atrocity quick action is imperative. An unstable nation left in chaos can result in further acts of violence. So the ICTJ is right to say that accountability is key to setting a new standard, I would point out efficiency as an obstacle it faces.
    The ICTJ focuses heavily on the emotional toll felt by victims and the need for their voices to be heard. We discussed in class how truth commissions allow victims to feel validated in their struggle and grief and can be a healing process. Unfortunately, often times those being prosecuted are state-officials and important leaders while lesser members of autocratic regimes are allowed free. These are the criminals that reside in the same communities as victims and that can cause the most lasting tension. Fortunately this view point has been recognized and made a priority. The president of the IJF, Gary Haugen is quoted, “This is especially important for issues, such as the reality of lawless violence, that might otherwise stay far below the radar because they disproportionally affect the lives of very poor people, who number more than 2 billion, but have weaker voices and less access to governmental and economic power.”

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