IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Restorative Justice after Mass Violence: Opportunities and risks for children and youth


  • Laura Stovel
  • Marta Valiñas


There is growing interest in the role that restorative justice can play in addressing mass atrocities. This paper describes the associated principles and practices within juvenile justice systems and in societies emerging from mass violence. It also examines the meaning, opportunities and limitations of restorative justice in transitional societies, particularly in relation to the needs of young victims and offenders. We argue that procedural forms of restorative justice, involving redress by offenders, face considerable challenges because communities and governments often lack the coercive capacity or will to hold offenders accountable. In contexts where accountability is lacking we argue that pressuring victims to meet with, and forgive, those who harmed them may be inappropriate. Such encounters should only occur where victims see them as necessary to their own healing. Despite the procedural limitations of restorative justice, this perspective (ontology) helps us analyse the route to reconciliation in different conflict contexts and reveals opportunities and challenges for justice and reconciliation in each case. This ontology reveals that intra-communal and inter-communal (ethnic/religious) conflicts have dramatically different justice and reconciliation challenges. In an intra-communal conflict, such as in Sierra Leone, offenders need to reintegrate into communities that they or their factions harmed. The desire to reintegrate into communities that condemn their crimes while accepting them provides opportunities for young offenders to address their crimes. In ethnically divided societies, offenders are often seen as heroes in their communities and may not have to address their crimes until the communities themselves condemn them. This makes restorative justice and reconciliation much more difficult, as communities do not take on the role of promoting accountability for their own members. In such cases, restorative justice efforts must promote social trust between groups. In both intra-communal and inter-communal conflicts, victims are often marginalized by their own communities and receive inadequate assistance. Restorative justice shows us that much can be done to help young victims, and this should become an explicit part of the justice picture. Finally, we argue that traditional justice is not synonymous with restorative justice. While traditional justice is community based and often meaningful to people, many of its forms are retributive; deny a voice to children, youth and other disadvantaged groups; or place community reconciliation above individual justice. Therefore, traditional justice practices should be assessed case by case if they are to be claimed as restorative justice equivalents.

Suggested Citation

  • Laura Stovel & Marta Valiñas, 2010. "Restorative Justice after Mass Violence: Opportunities and risks for children and youth," Papers inwopa612, Innocenti Working Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucf:inwopa:inwopa612

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Full text
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    File Function: Compressed
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Betancourt, Theresa S. & Agnew-Blais, Jessica & Gilman, Stephen E. & Williams, David R. & Ellis, B. Heidi, 2010. "Past horrors, present struggles: The role of stigma in the association between war experiences and psychosocial adjustment among former child soldiers in Sierra Leone," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 17-26, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    child soldiers; right to be heard; right to recovery and reintegration; transitional justice;

    JEL classification:

    • K19 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Other

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucf:inwopa:inwopa612. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Patrizia Faustini). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.