Improvement of treatment of perpetrators after conflict

By Duke Huang

Suspects await their turn in front of a gacaca court Reuters photographer

In the realm of peacebuilding, I think what we need to improve the most is our treatment to the actors or perpetrators of the conflict during post-conflict period. They are often deprived of social, economic opportunities if they were not tried and incarcerated for the actions they have committed during the conflict. Their grievance and sense of powerlessness are often the drive to continue the conflict. I am not condoning their actions during the conflict, nor am I thinking that they shouldn’t be responsible for their actions. However, our current treatment to them has not only proven useless, but also exacerbating the conflict. I don’t have the definitive answer to what we should do with the perpetrators after the conflict, but I believe that we should prioritize the reconciliation and improvement of social and economic situation between the victims and perpetrators. 

I have studied the reconciliation and transitional justice in Rwanda and South Africa. I am not sure if they were the correct route for these two countries to face their own trauma, but they were certainly the best route available at the time. Even though, there are still underlying social, economic and political issues dividing the people to this day, the truth and reconciliation commissions certainly provided a platform for people to discuss their pain and grievances, for both the victims and perpetrators.

It is certainly hard for the victims to accept that the perpetrators might not receive the retribution the victims are expecting. However, we need to consider the fact that retributive justice would not necessarily deter people from committing the atrocity nor would it help the victims to heal their pain. Fearing being incarcerated, the perpetrators might start a coup or continue commit atrocity.

I personally don’t have experience of peacebuilding, but I believe that the SPP at MIIS can provide me the skills and knowledge I need to tackle the issue of the treatment of actors and perpetrators of the conflict.