Expanding the scope of post-conflict justice: Individual, state and societal responsibility for mass atrocity
Over the past two decades, a new international regime of individual criminal accountability has emerged as a dominant regulatory mechanism to address gross human rights violations. At the same time, states are still pursuing claims against each other for human rights abuses in international courts. These two concepts of responsibility - individual and state - are not only fundamentally at odds with one another; they also exclude the third, critical aspect of political accountability - societal responsibility for past violence. This triple accountability - of individual perpetrators who committed the crimes, of the state that hired them to implement the practices, and of society that supported or tacitly approved repressive state policies - is a complex political condition that the current transitional justice framework is ill equipped to deal with. Individualization of accountability serves the retributive purpose of justice, but it is woefully inadequate to address the collective political ideologies that made such heinous crimes possible in the first place. Domestic elites can be enthusiastic supporters of individual human rights trials - not because they want to bring about justice, but because they want to shield the state and society from complicity in past crimes. To address this paradox, this article presents a new framework of post-conflict accountability that includes individual, state, and societal responsibility for human rights violations. The framework is then applied to the case of Serbian responsibility for war crimes committed in Bosnia.
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