The Ethics of Lustration [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 20.1 (Spring 2006)

April 24, 2006

One of the most important challenges for the occupation of Iraq has been making decisions about the status of people who were either responsible for or who passively benefited from the regime’s past injustices. But how should such people—in this case, members of the Baath Party—be dealt with? And how have they been dealt with under the U.S. occupation?

Although lustration is just one of many institutions of jus post bellum, it is arguably one of the most important. The pursuit of administrative justice affects the reconstitution of the public sphere—literally and figuratively—in more fundamental ways than most other institutions of transitional justice. Yet our understanding of the ethics of occupation in the twenty-first century continues to be incomplete, and ethical principles are needed for guiding and clarifying how occupations may justly be carried out and for establishing a legitimate role for international morals in the conduct of peace.

This article develops three such principles for guiding the practice of lustration, and argues that they have been widely flouted during the occupation of Iraq. This is problematic from the perspective of jus post bellum, for to paraphrase Michael Walzer's argument in Just and Unjust Wars, the restraint of peace is the beginning of peace.

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