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Land Reform and Distributive Justice in the Settlement of Internal Armed Conflicts

Bogotá, 5-6 June 2009 

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In transitions from armed conflict to peace, the international community tends to prioritize peace-consolidation and peace-building higher than most other interests. Increasing emphasis has been put on corrective justice ever since the early 1990s. This trend seeks to reduce the age-old practice of impunity for those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Transitional justice's foremost mechanisms are correspondingly retributive justice against perpetrators, truth-telling processes and reparations to victims. The practice of transitional justice has necessarily focused on individual conduct during the past conflict and the specific and direct effects of atrocities. As a result, its discourse has been less concerned with distributive justice and considerations of economic efficiency. This lacuna in the transitional justice discourse was emphatically referred to as problematic during the FICHL seminar Law in Peace Negotiations held in Bogotá on 15 and 16 June 2007. 

When considerations of distributive justice and economic efficiency are factored in, a wider perspective on transitions opens up, and new and difficult questions emerge. Armed conflicts often bring about devastating effects on political communities, massive destruction of physical and social capital, leaving large groups in serious poverty and others in positions of economic power. By including the distributive justice perspective, we raise the importance of the fundamental interests of social and economic justice, alongside such key interests as public order and accountability for atrocities. If we do not, the social and economic needs of victims of armed conflict are in effect not recognized in the same way during the transition. In sum, when claims of reparation are raised in the aftermath of armed conflict, considerations of transitional justice, distributive justice, and efficiency may conflict and need to be balanced against each other.

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