Ethics & International Affairs Volume 27.2 (Summer 2013): "Judging State-Sponsored Violence Imagining Political Change" by Bronwyn Leebaw

Jun 6, 2013

Judging State-Sponsored Violence, Imagining Political Change, Bronwyn Leebaw (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 224 pp., $94 cloth, $33.99 paper.

Review by Andrew G. Reiter

As states emerge from periods of authoritarianism or civil war they are faced with the daunting task of engaging past political violence. Challenged by competing domestic demands and international pressures, and often hindered by limited resources and the sheer scope of past wrongdoing, states have a range of options at their disposal to engage in the transitional justice process. In her latest book, Bronwyn Leebaw argues that two competing frameworks have come to dominate the field of transitional justice. The first, "human rights legalism," stems from the Nuremberg Trials and stresses the promotion of law, trials, and individual criminal responsibility in the aftermath of atrocity. The second, which she terms "therapeutic restorative justice," has its origins in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) implemented by South Africa following the end of Apartheid, and focuses on repairing society and healing the wounds of the past.

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