GoJIL Vol. 5, No. 1 (2013)
Romanticization Versus Integration?: Indigenous Justice in Rule of Law Reconstruction and Transitional Justice Discourse
There is great optimism in transitional justice literature that indigenous legal processes can capture the meaning of conflict in ways that more remote, state- or international-based processes cannot. However, if the innovations in terms of inclusiveness, gender, and fairness that transitional justice invariably promote when employing indigenous justice processes are to make a long-term, sustainable impact beyond the transitional moment, greater attention must be given to how their employment as a form of transitional justice might interact with the usually simultaneous process of rule of law reconstruction. If transitional justice actors are to interact productively with justice sector reformers and national governments to establish traditional dispute resolution mechanisms in post-conflict States, they will have to abandon some of their more romantic notions evident in the literature and policy documents of indigenous justice as something inherently restorative, as an antidote to the shortcomings of legal formalism or as a site of resistance to the State Leviathan. Enthusiasts for the employment of indigenous mechanisms in transitional justice can learn lessons from the processes of de-romanticization that legal pluralism went through and the experiences of peace building missions in recent decades.
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