Questionable Associations: The Role of Forgiveness in Transitional Justice

Citation:

Saunders, Rebecca. 2011. “Questionable Associations: The Role of Forgiveness in Transitional Justice.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 5 (1): 119–41. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijr003.

Author: Rebecca Saunders

Abstract:

Forgiveness has gained surprising prominence in transitional justice circles due, in part, to the impact of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, advocacy of forgiveness by educational and social psychologists and critiques of retributive justice in critical legal studies. Drawing on philosophy, psychology, literature, legal theory and records of transitional justice in situ, this article argues that while advocates claim significant personal and social benefits derive from forgiveness, transitional justice should not consider forgiveness an a priori good or as commensurate with either reconciliation or peacebuilding. Before advocating forgiveness as a form of personal healing or social reconciliation, artisans of transitional justice mechanisms should consider that the repression of anger or resentment may be psychologically harmful and that perceived pressure to forgive may cause significant psychic distress. They should carefully consider the ways in which rhetoric or practices of forgiveness may facilitate perpetrators’ ability to do harm, teach victims to make peace with their oppression and reinforce structures of inequality.

Topics: Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Trauma, Justice, Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2011

© 2017 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.