Several milestones in the field of international justice and human rights have been reached. After the case of Pinochet we saw a domino-effect in the use of universal jurisdiction with example cases against Sharon and Arafat in Belgium and, more recently, former Chadian President H. Habré whose extradition question from Senegal is now to be looked at by the International Court of Justice. Beginning of this year the International Criminal Court opened the hearings of its first trial, in which T. Lubanga is charged for war crimes (recruitment and use of child soldiers). On 4th of March 2009 the ICC also issued the first ever arrest warrant against a serving head of state, Sudanese President Bashir who is indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity (atrocities, mainly inflicted in Darfur). These cases clearly demonstrate that the old, traditional boundaries of state sovereignty and immunity have drastically changed. Besides, in particular the cases of Lubanga and Bashir at the ICC send a clear message that perpetrators of mass scale atrocities and grave violations of international law will no longer easily escape accountability.
It is as well important to realize that even though these landmark cases are at times perceived as isolated events, in reality they belong to a much bigger process of `post-conflict' justice and political transition. It is a process which not only involves prosecution for wrongdoings of repressive leaders, but also contextualized ways of dealing with the past, and application of proper strategies for successful transition to more stability, peace and respect for human rights. This highly complex and multi-layered theme is addressed by N. Roht Arriaza and J. Mariezcurrena in their book Transitional Justice the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice. The impressive study brings together detailed and comprehensive articles by expert-contributors whose focus varies from Peru, East-Timor to Sierra-Leone and Afghanistan. The geographical diversity of cases goes along with the wide range mechanisms that are explored: international courts and tribunals, truth commissions, vetting, reparations and their interplay. Whereas in the past it were mainly two major trends, namely investigative truth and justice through (inter)national trials, the new generation of transitional justice often combines more mechanisms and puts them at work simultaneously. Therefore, studies that are presented in this book analyze one or more of these dimensions and address difficult questions of cultural diversity, effectiveness, limitations and sustainability.
The first part of the book - Truth, Justice and Multiple Institutions - analyses different ways of approaching justice and truth. How to make sure that the worst offenders receive prosecution and at the same time atrocities are prevented in future? How to build a proper platform for victims and create a reliable and authoritative account of the past events? In the case of Sierra Leone, the author, S. Horovitz argues that it might be necessary to sequence different mechanisms; prosecutions should be partly built upon results and recommendations of a truth (and reconciliation) commission. Chapters 3 and 4, which deal respectively with transitional justice efforts in Peru and Mexico, explore different implications of the lack of strategic planning. So for instance in the Peruvian case, bad coordination and communication resulted in the TRC and the prosecuting agency being confused about how to address grave violations and having compete over financial resources. On the other hand, similar to Schabas' elaboration on Sierra Leonne the case of East-Timor demonstrates that trials and Truth Commissions can be used simultaneously, if well planned. As the coexistence of different mechanisms brings both advantages and challenges, it is vital to strike the right balance in the relation between different levels.
This interplay of levels is the main focus of the second part of the book, Levels of Justice: Local, National and International. It is thus not only about the interaction between truth seeking and justice, but also the relation between reparations, vetting, informal and local approaches, and the implications of strong (and at times inconsistent) international interference. The Gacaca tribunals in Rwanda and the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CARV) in East-Timor show that nations can choose methods that are most meaningful in their own local context where low-level offenders can be held accountable and where people can find acceptable public disclosure through for instance apologies and reparations. Even though there have been problems with uniformity and integration into formal judicial system, as well as much tensions with transnational initiatives in the field of human rights, one could say that these local methods have been successful to some extent in reconciling people and contributing to relative stability.
Another major lesson that can be learned from this book comes from studies of Afghanistan and Chad (and Iraq): the lack of transition and inconsistent international involvement can scrutinize and delegitimize transitional justice efforts. Despite establishment of a new government though elections, existence of an Afghan parliament Loya Jirga and the emergence of Afghan civil society in the field of human rights, change has been very slow. Moreover, neither stability nor accountability or reparations for past atrocities have been realized. In 2005 President Kazai signed the Transitional Justice Action Plan which including truth seeking and vetting; yet, many warlords and alleged war criminals, like Sayyaf, whose power is mainly derived from the threat of further escalation of violence, have been included in the decision making process. However, the US government and UN senior officials Brahimi and Arnault have explained that `transitional justice has to wait till other institutional transformations' take place , while vetting, documentation and acknowledgement of past events as well as help to victims are, in fact, linked to the necessary institutional transformation.
The situation in Chad is some ways similar. While Belgium and Senegal are fighting at the ICJ over Habré's extradition, the "new" Chadian governments have failed to fully implement the recommendations of the Truth Commission which was established in 1991, shortly after the removal of Habré from power. Victim claims for reparation were not met; on contrary, victims and their supporters have been receiving threats, allegedly from former DDC staff that previously worked for Habré regime and now hold official positions. As Reed Brody explains, `victims are helped and perpetrators prosecuted only when political interest is there' . Hence, the lack of political transition directly scrutinizes the process of transitional justice.
In short, the wide range of case studies presented R N. Roht Arriaza and J. Mariezcurrena teach us about challenges and advances in the field of transitional justice. The book is incredibly helpful for understanding different dimensions of the theme. Having said that, one can be both hopeful because of some of the achievements and disheartened by obstacles and limitations in the way of achieving justice, reconciliation and peace.