by Nathalia Contreras Pardo

During the justice session on the Symposium that question was asked by one of the speakers. Reflecting on that I truly believe that justice can strongly contribute to the reconciliation process of a society.

When thinking about the purpose of implementing accountability mechanisms there is always the idea that the main goal would be to satisfy victim’s rights or to provide legal certainty to those who actively participated on the hostilities. Nevertheless, the role of justice on reconciliation is usually not mentioned. Indeed, that relationship cannot be seen as evident.

Reconciliation can be understood as a complex process in which actors who were usually seen as opposed or antagonist, now can share a common project for the future. This process requires all the actors in society to get involve and the restoration of trust among them. It also needs to take place at different levels -family, community and institutional. At the end, this process will allow societies, families and communities to walk together to a common aim and be able to resolve their conflicts in a peaceful way.

In that sense, justice and trials outcomes can strongly contribute to reconciliation. First, it requires justice mechanisms to be unbiased, not to be the winner’s justice, and really commit to the prosecution of those who belong to all sides of the conflict or atrocities. That will allow the creation of a narrative, backed by evidence.  That narratives that come out from the trials have the great potential to show the complexities of the conflict, to highlight the social, political or economic causes of the conflict, to show those gray areas which will help understand why society and different actors reached that level of aggression, without justifying what actually happened. That will also contribute to destigmatize certain groups and get members of society to come together and recognize the other as equal.

On the other hand, trials also can support the reestablishment of the rule of law by the prosecutions and sentencing. And, by showing that State is fighting impunity victims and society in general will gain trust and legitimize the institutions.

Finally, depending on the circumstances, courts are able to order reparations, especially for those most vulnerable or measures to guarantee their human rights and non-recurrence of the atrocities.

Taking that into consideration, I believe that justice can contribute to set important foundations for the reconciliation process. Hence, it is necessary to consider how transitional justice mechanisms are related one to another and how can they be set up in a way that allows to achieve the best results possible towards reconciliation and peace.