Volume: Volume 3(2) - 1999
Article type: Editorial
In this edition of Law Democracy and Development the focus is on transitional justice specifically in the African context. Transitional justice is a key area of focus and specialisation at the Law Faculty of the University of the Western Cape because as the twenty-first century begins, transitions from repressive rule to democracy have become a worldwide phenomenon, In many cases, the displaced regimes have been characterised by massive violations of human rights, Dealing with these past injustices is a crucial test for a new democratic order.
Facing the tension between justice and peace, the transitional process entails tremendous challenges. Countries in these situations have to resolve similar problems: should or must they punish human rights violations committed under the old order? Is an amnesty permissible and necessary in the interest of peace, reconciliation and unity? Does a society need an official accounting and acknowledgment of the wrongs of the past? Must the public sector be purged of supporters of the old regime? How can the victims of human rights violations be assisted in some way and have their dignity restored? To what extent should unjustly expropriated property be restored? New democracies have various options in dealing with these issues. They make their choices according to the contexts of their transitions, taking into account the seriousness of the crimes committed and the amount of resources available to deal with these issues.
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