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The three Rs: retributive justice, restorative justice, and reconciliation

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This article explores the relationship between retributive justice, restorative justice, and reconciliation. Using the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as case studies, it begins by examining whether international war crimes tribunals, as dispensers of retributive justice, can contribute to reconciliation in post-conflict societies. According to their supporters, international war crimes criminals can foster reconciliation in three principal ways: by seeing that justice is done; by establishing the truth about crimes committed; and by individualizing guilt. It will be argued that each of these claims is flawed. War crimes tribunals are an important part of the peace-building process in post-conflict societies but it is argued that the retributive justice they deliver is not the most effective means to promote reconciliation. The article's core premise is that restorative justice has the greatest potential to initiate and further reconciliation and should, therefore, complement the administration of retributive justice. To demonstrate the value of restorative justice in practice, it provides some examples of restorative processes in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia.
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Keywords: ICTR; ICTY; reconciliation; restorative justice; retributive justice; transitional justice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: International Politics Department, University of Aberystwyth, Wales, UK

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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