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Minow's dilemma critical evaluation - Essay Example

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Consider Minow's dilemma: "The central premise of individual responsibility portrays defendants as separate people capable of autonomous choice- when the phenomena of mass atrocities render that assumption at best problematic" (Minow, 1998: 46) The recognition of the universality of human rights is perhaps the strongest force that underlies initiatives made towards the struggle for justice after a period of mass atrocity…
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Minows dilemma critical evaluation
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Download file to see previous pages While forgetting may seem an alluring option for some, unwilling as they are to face the disquietude brought about by rousing old skeletons, there is a greater ethical and moral imperative to exhume the past if only to serve as lessons for the future. In her important book entitled “Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence”, Martha Minow looks at the range of institutional responses that have been crafted with the end in view of seeking justice for the victims of mass atrocities and demanding accountability from the perpetrators. The ethical imperative of incorporating justice into efforts towards peace in a post-conflict context is at the heart of the transitional justice project. Its premise is that war and conflict have brought about a slew of human rights and international humanitarian law violations which demand accountability from its perpetrators and reparation for its victims. Minow uses this framework in her book as she problematizes the difficulties of navigating the complex road to justice, in the complex terrain and conditions of a post-conflict situation. Minow, however, presented a crucial dilemma when she stated that "The central premise of individual responsibility portrays defendants as separate people capable of autonomous choice- when the phenomena of mass atrocities render that assumption at best problematic" (1998: 46). This is a dilemma because it articulates a conflict between the desire to prosecute individual perpetrators for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the realization that the mass atrocities were taking place amid extraordinary conditions and assigning individual criminal responsibility to the perpetrators – even if they were the leaders or the heads of the military – does not capture the depth and breadth and magnitude of the phenomenon at hand. This paper will explore this dilemma even further, and will demonstrate that while there is persuasive value to individual criminal responsibility, it is an injustice to constrain or limit oneself to the institutional and legal mechanisms that seek accountability for individual criminal behavior without looking at the conditions that gave rise to the atrocity. To quote Franke (2001: 1), “Justice is, of course, a very complex ethical, legal, institutional and emotional problem, and its aspirations are rendered all the more difficult in transitional societies that are struggling with unstable governance, security and economic institutions.”. Certainly, there are cases where individual criminal responsibility may be very clearly gleaned. Historical accounts have it that on April 25, 1987, Slobodan Milosevic, the fallen President of Serbia, went to Kosovo Polje and was met with a crowd of fifteen thousand Serbs, including an old man who suddenly shouted to Milosevic that the ethnic Albanians were beating them. Milosevic responded by calling out to the man, “No one shall dare beat you again.” As if these remarks were not incendiary enough, he proceeded to say, “This is your land, your fields, your gardens; your memories are here”. A decade later, under Milosevic’s watch, in defense of fields, gardens and memories, Serbian forces unleashed ethnic ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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