This essay evaluates the logic of international criminal justice for post-conflict states. Specifically, it questions whether transitional justice is peace-promoting or conflict-inducing. It posits that the immediate, post-conflict political transition is the critical moment for instituting durable peace. Policy-makers and human rights advocates would therefore be wise to temper their well-meaning, yet potentially destabilizing, calls for justice in the service of peace. In assessing this tension, the relative merits and shortcomings of both amnesties and prosecutions will be discussed. Ultimately, transitional justice must address the victims of mass atrocity through a “forward-looking” paradigm.
By Jeffrey M. Bernstein Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University