Reckoning with Past Wrongs: A Normative Framework [Abstract]
Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 13 (1999)
December 4, 1999
This essay formulates eight goals that have emerged from worldwide moral
deliberation on "transitional justice" and that may serve as a useful framework
when particular societies consider how they should reckon with violations of
internationally recognized human rights. These goals include: truth, a public
platform for victims, accountability and punishment, the rule of law,
compensation to victims, institutional reform and long-term development,
reconciliation, and public deliberation.
These eight goals are used to identify and clarify (1) the variety of ethical issues that emerge in reckoning with past wrongs, (2) widespread agreements about initial steps for resolving each issue, (3) leading options for more robust solutions of each issue, and (4) ways to weight or trade off the norms when they conflict. The aim is to show that there are crucial moral aspects in reckoning with the past and to clarify, criticize, revise, apply, and diffuse eight moral norms. These goals are not a "one-size-fits-all" blueprint but rather a framework by which societies confronting past atrocities can decide--through cross-cultural and critical dialogue--what is most important to accomplish and the morally best ways to do so.
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