Plea Bargaining as Restorative Justice
Using Guilty Pleas to Advance Both Criminal
Accountability and Reconciliation
Chapter 7 described the benefits that can result from the conventional practice of plea bargaining in the context of international crimes. Specifically, the use of plea bargaining creates an opportunity to prosecute offenders who would otherwise remain free, and it conveys a limited amount of truth and acknowledgment about the crimes committed. Guilty pleas have the capacity to advance not only these aims but also reconciliatory goals that are better associated in the international context with nonprosecutorial mechanisms, such as truth commissions and reparations schemes. In the context of domestic crimes, these goals have recently begun to be pursued through restorative-justice processes. This chapter explores the incorporation of restorative-justice principles to efforts to prosecute international crimes and the key role that guilty pleas can play in that incorporation.
As its name indicates, restorative justice aims to correct imbalances and restore broken relationships through healing, harmony, and reconciliation.776 The needs of victims constitute a central focus for restorative justice; thus, instead of asking the primary question of a conventional criminal justice system—what should be done with the offender?—restorative justice asks what should be done for the victim. At the same time, restorative justice emphasizes the community’s ongoing relationship with offenders. Offenders are not to be viewed as “people who are different from ourselves and who do not properly belong in our society”;777