Transitional justice, according to the International Center for Transitional Justice (2013), “refers to the set of judicial and non-judicial measures that have been implemented by different countries in order to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses. These measures include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms.” In other words, when a significant enough conflict arises between two entities and changes the dynamic of that relationship, there needs to be some way of reconciling the relationship. This is where the field of transitional justice comes in. According to an article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The field of transitional justice…. involves the philosophical, legal, and political investigation of the aftermath of war.” It also stated that transitional justice “has come, in recent years, to designate a field of academic inquiry, as well as political practice, concerned with the aftermath of conflict and large-scale human rights abuses.” There are a plethora of questions we are told that must be asked when defining transitional justice. For instance, what counts as a “transition”? Or “are the same governments that carried out repression administering TJ initiatives”? Our lecture video also mentioned that “over the last twenty years, transitional justice has become a normative response to the end of civil war, authoritarian governments, and political repression.” Clearly this a relatively new concept, although it seems to have been implemented in many cases. The goals of transitional justice are to find ways to end conflict, and bring parties involved to a peaceful consensus or way of living through various methods and “transitions.” The International Center for Transitional Justice is a non-profit organization “dedicated to pursuing accountability for mass atrocity and human rights abuse through transitional justice mechanisms.” Transitional justice is a crucial developing field that “provides recognition of the rights of victims, promotes civic trust and strengthens the democratic rule of law” (ICTJ 2013). Some associated problems, or difficulties, that come with transitional justice include distinguishing victims from perpetrators. How can you tell who is the victim of such crimes and who the ones are that are responsible for carrying out such crimes. We are also informed that the reality of contemporary and historical conflicts are actually more ambiguous than we’d like to admit. Also taking into account that there are always going to be two sides to one story. People will always tell the story differently based on what side they were on when it occurred. The ones committing the crimes will often tell it in a manner that validates their actions, or make them seem like they were necessary or lawful. Whereas the victims will tell it from the victims point of view. There are these “ambiguous zones,” or also known as “gray zones” that make transitional justice a little tricky.
Argentina has been undergoing significant changes in regards to the investigation and prosecution of human rights violations that endured from 1976 to 1983; during this period the country was under rule by a military dictatorship. The article “Accountability in Argentina: 20 Years Later, Transitional Justice Maintains Momentum” states that “an estimated 10,000 to 30,000 people ‘disappeared.’” Since Argentina’s return to democracy in 1983, different government entities have developed and used different initiatives to help uncover the truth, and to bring about prosecutions and reparations. The new democratically elected president, Raul Alfonsin, inherited “a weakened democratic infrastructure and a strong military that actively resisted accountability for past crimes, frustrating initial justice efforts.” However, there were two major trials that ended in successful prosecution of some key military leaders. Argentina went through various steps and processes over an extended period of time that led them to where they now are. Things that were perceived as a step back, and things perceived as two steps forward. There were pardons and quasi-amnesties, confessions, “Truth Trials,” and house arrests, increasing pressure from overseas, a move to nullify the amnesty laws, and the motivating force of civil society. All of these steps and processes could be seen as the various mechanisms that were enforced in order to bring about transitional justice. If the title didn’t make it obvious enough, these worked. They weren’t perfect, and they definitely hit many bumps and cracks in the long road to justice, but it worked. These things are never cut and clear, they are messy and chaotic. However, the end result is almost always worth it.
What is Transitional Justice? Tribunals, Truth Commissions, and memorials [Video blog post]. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp236-us16/lecture-videos/what-is-transitional-justice-tribunals-truth-commissions-and-memorials/
Accountability In Argentina: 20 Years Later, Transitional Justice Maintains Momentum https://www.ictj.org/sites/default/files/ICTJ-Argentina-Accountability-Case-2005-English.pdf