International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: peace

Peace in Columbia?

The Columbian government has ratified a new peace accord with the Farc rebel group. The agreement was approved unanimously by both the House and the Senate of the Columbian Congress, just over a month after the peace accord was originally rejected. The peace accord calls for the Farc rebels to lay down their weapons and stop the violence. This accord comes after five decades of fighting and the death of more than 260,000 people. The Farc will now begin the transitioning process into a political party as a new means of creating change without violence. This peace accord is highly supported by current Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos; however, many people, including former President Alvaro Uribe, deeply oppose the agreement, claiming it is too lenient on Farc leaders. This agreement marks a major milestone for Columbia in achieving peace after five decades, but many still question how effective the peace accord will be.


Colombian Peace Deal: Truly Victim Centric?

Monday evening, September 26th Farc leader, Rodrigo Londono (aka. Timochenko) apologized to victims of the armed conflict in Colombia during the signing of the new peace deal. The history of the conflict in Colombia stems from the Cold War. The major players involved in signing the peace deal were the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) – the predominant rebel guerrilla group in the country – and the Colombian government. The group has existed since 1964 and represents the armed wing of the Communist party. Their primary technique in war has been guerrilla warfare in rural areas.

2012 initiated the start of public peace talks in Havana which have culminated in the peace deal established yesterday evening. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the very ceremonious occasion. All dignitaries in attendance were dressed in white to symbolize peace. A pen constructed from a bullet was used to further exemplify the aspirations for peace behind the deal. Timochenko assured Colombia and the world that his group would be hanging up their guns for good and even asked for forgiveness in his apology to the victims of his crimes. Serious questions remain about the practicality of a new peace in democracy without holding the perpetrators legally accountable.screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-2-19-32-pm

The deal prescribes political party status for the Farc meaning that the now former rebel group will take part in the 2018 legislative elections. In accordance with the deal, the group will be afforded a minimum of ten seats in the legislature for the first two Congressional sessions. There exists a faction within Colombia that remain distrustful of the Farc and are angry that members of the rebel force will be allowed to participate in Congress without first serving jail time for their crimes.


In an interview with BBC President Manuel Santos notes that the peace process has been centered around the needs of the eight million victims created by the 50 year war. The interviewer notes that two former Colombian presidents denounce the deal as “virtual amnesty”. Santos insists that impunity does not exist. He continues that the process has involved truth and reparations on an unprecedented scale to work to amend the wrongdoing. Santos describes the mentality of the negotiations on his part which insisted on “maximum justice that will allow us peace” (Santos, 2016). The next phase will be the most difficult in terms of reconstructing the culture, values, and social network of Colombia. Santos admits that the process will not be easy and may take many years; however, he appears optimistic for the countries future and proud of the restorative work his government has initiated. 


Van Morrison and the Role of Music in Reconciliation

In searching for material for my first blog post, I came across an interesting bit of information about an event that happened during peace processes following political violence between the IRA and other nationalist groups in Northern Ireland and the British government.  Apparently following a visit to the city of Belfast from then U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1995, the musician Van Morrison played a concert for a crowd of more than 80,000 people. Van Morrison, who is North Irish himself, performed the song “Days Like This”, which later, according to some, became an anthem for the peace movement in Northern Ireland.

For the participants who were there to witness it, one can imagine that Van Morrison’s concert was life changing and “something that allowed them to imagine peace, the possibility of living together.” It would be interesting to learn more about other similar events in recent history that might have happened in response to political violence or conflict. In addition, it would be worthwhile to investigate the question, “In the aftermath of mass violence and instability, what role can music play in promoting unity and reconciliation in a society imagining peace?” Such research could be very beneficial to societies seeking peace today, especially considering how pervasive music is in cultures and communities around the globe.

“Days Like This” – Van Morrison

The Impact of Visuals on Justice and Peace

This video was posted on the IJCentral page and looks at the relationship of visual images and war crimes trials.

The video was put together by a team at King’s College in London who studied the role that visual images can play in achieving justice and peace in a post-conflict society. Not surprisingly, as more and more people around the world have access to televisions, the internet and other sources of news, visual images of war crimes are not only reaching a large audience but also playing a bigger role in swaying public opinion.

The researchers looked specifically at the case of the Yugoslavia tribunals and how video footage of the Scorpion Unit killing civillians affected those in the courtroom. According to the surveyed participants in the courtroom, the footage had a far greater evidentiary effect than anything else that was presented in the trial.

As previously mentioned, images can be used to sway public opinion and often can promote reconciliation. Images of atrocities sway the hearts and minds of the public and be used to teach societies to acknowledge past violence and promote peace.

What I found particularly interesting in this clip was the reaction of victims to watching the criminal proceedings. Criminal accountability for the perpetrator that wronged them is often mentioned as what victims want from a State. One would think that if a victim couldn’t be physically present at a trial, they would want to watch the trial on TV and watch the person that harmed them face justice. However the researchers in the video mentioned that victims often feel isolated and detached from the courtroom, understandable so because the trial way occur thousand of miles from where they live, but they also feel disgusted as they watch. They find the “politeness” and “sycophancy” of the court disturbing. Even though the perpetrator is being held accountable for his crimes, and justice is being served, peace in the mind of the victim is still not achieved.

“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.

The ICC, Restorative Justice and Peace

The International Criminal Court was established as an institution for the pursuit of perpetrators of human rights, war crimes and genocide. The very nature of the crimes the court aims to decide make it into an institution of retributive justice. In the nascent days if the court, after his cooperative approach gleaned few advances, Luis Moreno-Ocampo decided to aggressively pursue Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb. His goal? To arrest and try them, to punish their actions to such an extent that would deter future violations of human rights. This is not only his goal as the independent prosecutor, but the goal for the ICC as an institution. The very nature of the ICC is disposed toward retributive justice. In fact, Moreno-Ocampo grew concerned when his pursuit disrupted peace negotiations, but what role does the pursuit of retributive justice play in the attainment of peace?

One important aspect to keep in mind about justice is the difference between retributive and restorative justice. While retributive justice regulates proportionate response to crime proven through legitimate evidence, so that punishment is justly imposed and considered as morally correct and fully deserved, restorative justice is concerned not so much with retribution and punishment as with making the victim whole and bringing the perpetrator back into society. This approach frequently brings an offender and a victim together; it teaches the offender to understand the pains of the victim and his or her role in inflicting them.

However, it is also notable to mention that the ICC’s mandate creates a court that aims to achieve retributive justice for those who have been victimized. While the Goetz article mentioned the strong efforts to use victims at trials in order to make the court an institution of restorative justice as well, those efforts seem to have little support. Firstly, the process to use victims in trials is riddled with red tape and bureaucratic procedures that impede the victims’ ability to share their memories and explain the ways in which their rights and liberties were violated. And—even though these attempts to “restore” the victims through the achievement of justice are commendable, will restorative justice bring peace? Furthermore, it seems that bringing victims into the courtroom may violate another part of the ICC’s mandate–that there must be a presumption of innocence. How does the ICC integrate these victims while preserving the rights of the accused? It seems that the ICC is an institution distinctly mandated for retributive justice, and this fervor for punishment of criminals disrupts the peace negotiation and order-renewing process in war-torn countries. Furthermore, the degree of intensity regarding the pursuit of retributive justice undermines the ability of the ICC to attempt restorative justice. Or is restorative justice purely the responsibility of the domestic level courts? This idea would further fragment the courts, with the ICC breaking the perpetrators and detaining them, distancing them from the individuals they have harmed. How is restorative justice to trickle down to the victims, who are thousands of miles from the Hague and have little access to tools of information and awareness despite voluntary efforts from supportive nations?