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Synchrony is Key to the Success of Transitional Justice Mechanisms

Latin America has become the undisputed global leader in transitional justice and a model for efforts around the world. This is due, in part, to its position at the forefront of the “third wave” of democratization and its relatively long experience and practice in developing mechanisms to deal with past authoritarian state violence. Latin America’s leadership in transitional justice also results from its many innovations. These include restorative justice processes, or prosecuting perpetrators of atrocities of past authoritarian regimes. A third area of innovation is the role that Latin America has played in international transitional justice developments.

Findings from the study on transitional justice may be complicated due to variation in different cases. For instance, while national trials in Argentina and elsewhere may have played important roles in protecting human rights in multi-faceted ways, the same in Poland (Jaruzelski) and in Iraq (Saddam) bordered of farce. The truth Commission in Sierra Leone may have been seen as irrelevant to the daily life of the population, while the one in South Africa may have made a contribution to all race liberal democracy. While data-based studies are likely to give us good indication of probabilities, qualitative studies are likely to flesh out the details and improve our understanding of different situations.

Both retributive justice and restorative justice are two broad approaches that have been widely and concurrently employed to address injustices and human rights violations in the aftermath of conflicts. The former emphasizes on the importance of judicial mechanisms such as criminal trials as a way of seeking justice for the victims and deterring future crimes. The latter, on the other hand, emphasizes on healing and reconciliation rather than retribution. The priority in this second mechanism largely shifts from the perpetrators to the victims since the needs of the victims and affected communities are given priority. Restorative justice makes use of non-judicial mechanisms such as truth commissions and attempts to achieve its objectives through truth-telling, information gathering, official apology and memorialization.

Unfortunately the two approaches have largely been examined separately or as being exclusive or even antagonistic to each other as opposed to being complementally. The non-judicial initiatives concerned with restorative justice often receive less attention from human rights advocacy groups than their restorative justice counterparts. Some pundits argue that this might reflect the fact that the correlation between retributive mechanisms such truth commissions’ work and their long term objectives are both difficult to measure and often shrouded with uncertainty.

This complication extends to the very task of establishing the role of truth commissions in the process of democratization. The major problem is the limited powers such commissions receive from governments compounded by other organizational, procedural and technical challenges. It could be difficult to establish truth commissions and successfully facilitate their fruitful operations, but their contribution cannot be under-estimated. This is especially true since prosecutions can only be a partial response to past human rights violations in the context of post-conflict societies where the needs of victims in terms of healing and reparations are equally worth of consideration.

Both experience and studies point at tensions within and among different mechanisms of transitional justice. This makes the outcome of such mechanisms both largely uncertain and uneasy to predict. One of the major setbacks identifiable here, is lack of coordination between different mechanisms hence the need to synchronise mechanisms and approaches. 
Synchrony is Key to the Success of Transitional Justice Mechanisms Synchrony is Key to the Success of Transitional Justice Mechanisms Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on February 07, 2017 Rating: 5

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