Peace versus Justice: A False Dilemma


For a long time, making compromises on justice with powerful perpetrators of mass atrocities has been an integral part of peace negotiations ending conflicts. The immediate concern of ending the violence often resulted in amnesties for war crimes and crimes against humanity, sometimes even presenting the calls for justice as obstacles to peace.

However in recent years, there has been a marked shift away from the practice of providing immunity from prosecution to those responsible for mass atrocity. This has paralleled a growing understanding that the two goals of peace and justice, rather than being exclusive, are mutually reinforcing. Peace, when understood as enduring and long-term peace, goes beyond the immediate goal of ending a conflict and relies on justice and accountability to ensure sustainability. Where mass crimes are not addressed, when the root causes of conflict are not sought out and removed, when victims’ calls for justice are not heard, the danger of violence recurring remains high.

This ICTJ video explores the relationship between peace and justice as mutually reinforcing goals. ICTJ President David Tolbert and other ICTJ experts speak alongside former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone; and human rights activists from Kenya, Indonesia and Colombia on the role of justice in sustaining peace, ensuring non-repetition and reinstating respect for the rule of law.

"Can Video Stir the Debate on Peace and Justice?" on Witness' blog discusses the use of video to present this relationship, and invites viewer feedback.