Academic journal article Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

An International "Truth Commission": Utilizing Restorative Justice as an Alternative to Retribution

Academic journal article Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

An International "Truth Commission": Utilizing Restorative Justice as an Alternative to Retribution

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

A restorative justice paradigm emphasizes healing relationships between offenders, their victims, and the community in which the offense took place. It rejects retribution as a response to crime, focusing instead on the needs of all parties involved. This Note discusses the necessity for, and possible benefits of, using restorative justice principles when responding to international crimes and conflicts. Prosecution, war, and other violent means remain the most common responses to crime and conflict today. Such retributive reactions often lead to further violence rather than healing and peace. Using restorative justice principles to address crime and conflict, as was done in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, has proven that focusing on healing can end cycles of violence. In order to promote an end to international conflict and violence, therefore, countries unable to create their own truth commissions should have the opportunity to respond to conflict through restorative means by way of a permanent international truth commission.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  I.   INTRODUCTION
 II.   BACKGROUND ON RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
       A.   Definition
       B.   Goals
       C.   Methods Used to Achieve Goals
III.   CURRENT RESPONSES TO CRIME AND CONFLICT
       ON AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
       A.   The International Criminal Court
       B.   The Use of Force: Armed Conflict
 IV.   TRUTH COMMISSIONS
       A.   Definition
       B.   Goals
       C.   Methods Used to Achieve Goals
  V.   SOUTH AFRICA'S TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION
       COMMISSION (TRC)
       A.   Background of the TRC
       B.   Creation of the TRC
       C.   Theological Parameters of the TRC
 VI.   RESTORATIVE JUSTICE: A BETTER RESPONSE
       TO CRIME AND CONFLICT
       A.   Promoting an End to International Crimes
            and Conflicts
       B.   Current Responses: Failure to Promote
            an End to International Crimes and
            Conflicts
            1.   The Use of Force: Armed Conflict
            2.   The ICC
                 a.   Effect on Victims
                 b.   Effect on Offenders
       C.   International Truth Commission: Promoting
            an End to Conflict, Cyclical Violence
            and Revenge Through Healing,
            Forgiveness, and Understanding
VII.   CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Since the slaying of Abel by Cain, (1) people have been in violent conflict with one another. This first violent disruption in creation was caused in part by Cain's reaction to feeling that he had been treated unjustly compared to Abel. (2) Perceived injustice is the most frequent cause of disruption, pain, and suffering in societies--both because of the effects of injustice itself and because of personal and societal responses to unjust situations. (3) Injustice has most often been addressed by people and groups through war, destruction, and other violent means as an effort to restore justice. (4) Responding to injustice with violence is almost always answered with more violence, however, creating an unending cycle. The need for an alternative response to perceived injustice exists, therefore, especially in a world where conflicts between differing ideologies, beliefs, and standards of living unavoidably cause feelings of unjust treatment.

When international injustices, such as acts of war and terrorism, are committed today, the victims of such crimes most often respond through armed conflict or criminal prosecution. Answering violent acts with violence, however, perpetuates cycles of violence that will end only when alternatives to violence are sought in response to criminal offenses and war. Nations need the opportunity to pursue a non-violent response to injustice, rather than resorting to fighting or attempting to punish offenders through a national or international legal system. An international restorative justice forum would fulfill this need. …

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