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Reconciliation: I Know It When I see It 1

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States emerging from conflict increasingly seek ways in which to address the violence and human rights abuses of the past in order to move forward into a more peaceful future. The initial responses to mass atrocities were based in legal processes focused on the punishment of the person responsible for the harm. The inadequacy of such an approach resulted in the introduction of a variety of new goals in the transitional period, including the abstract notion of reconciliation which is increasingly advanced as the central goal in dealing with the legacy of the past. This article argues that the failure to examine the relationship between a discourse originally based on human rights and legal approaches and the introduction of reconciliation has only added new challenges rather than resolved existing ones and therefore must be re‐examined. The article also argues that no single approach should take prominence in addressing mass atrocities. Rather a range of options should be available to victims, in particular given the relative youth and inexperience of approaches to violent conflict.
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Keywords: Conflict; Human Rights; Law; Peace; Reconciliation; Transitional Justice

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2006

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