Transitional Justice – An Analysis of Restorative and Retributive Mechanisms in Sub-Saharan Africa

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för samhällsstudier (SS)

Abstract: Transitional justice is an essential part of the peacebuilding process, as the need to obtain justice for victims of conflict has been recognised as imperative when constructing peace. Subsequent to the established role of justice, the debate on approaches to justice has emerged. A debate concerned with whether restorative or retributive justice is suitable for the context, as the two are frequently presented as exclusive alternatives in academic debates.   Restorative justice favours inclusion and participation as instruments to repair harm caused by crimes, while retributive justice favours accountability through criminal punishment. This study, aspires to influence the discussion by analysing if the debate on restorative versus retributive justice is present in practice and if there is a trend of implementing restorative approaches to justice in this context. The objective of this study is relevant for transitional justice as there is a debate among scholars on the applicability of restorative justice in transitional societies.    The method of structured, focused comparison is applied to detect which mechanisms are implemented in four Sub-Saharan African post-conflict countries. The countries were selected based on their similarities, as it allows for a focused comparison. The theoretical framework adopted is the TARR-model. The elements of the model are applied as a basis for the structured, focused comparison. Further, the model is used to detect restorative and retributive mechanisms and to assess the restorative basis of transitional justice. The model was selected, as it is the only restorative value-based model available.   The findings detected the approaches to not be exclusive alternatives in practice. Further, a trend of fully restorative approaches to justice was not found in the four cases. However, retributive mechanisms were found to be contributing to restorative outcomes. A trend of combining the two approaches was detected. It is, therefore suggested, future research is conducted on hybrid approaches to justice, local ownership and traditional mechanisms.   Keywords: Restorative Justice, Retributive Justice, Sub-Saharan Africa, Transitional Justice.

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