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Home arrow Law arrow United States law and policy on transitional justice : principles, politics, and pragmatics

III. Focus of Analysis

The scope of this book’s analysis is narrowed in two ways. First, I focus on ICTs (as opposed to other types of transitional justice institutions, such as truth commissions) for two reasons. ICTs were the first and have been the longest-running attempts to promote and pursue transitional justice on the international stage. Consequently, ICTs have been instituted in response to many of the worst atrocities in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. ICTs are therefore perhaps the most significant type of transitional justice institution demanding critical study.

As I discuss in Chapter II, ICTs also vary widely in form and function. While this book focuses on state-sponsored ICTs, whether through or outside the UN, several international “tribunals” have been established, staffed, and operated by NGOs and/or independent individuals. These bodies have tried to hold accountable, even if only symbolically, USG officials and others accused of committing atrocities.70 Such “courts” are outside the scope of this book.

Second, this book examines the behavior of one state, the United States, toward transitional justice. There are three main reasons for this focus. First, as one of the world’s two superpowers after WWII and as the world’s sole superpower since the Cold War, the United States has been enormously influential in shaping international responses to atrocities. U.S. policy is thus critical to understanding the development and nature of transitional justice institutions. Second, the USG has arguably been the strongest backer of ad hoc ICTs, especially the IMT, the IMTFE, the ICTY, and the ICTR. The USG has favored their establishment, financed much of their operational costs, and provided technical expertise and staff.71 Third, the United States historically has been one of the most actively involved states leading international support for—or opposition to—particular transitional justice options and institutions. Although much scholarly attention focuses on the USG’s opposition to the ICC,72 academic discourse often neglects the USG’s leading role in establishing and supporting other transitional justice institutions, including the IMT, the IMTFE, the ICTY, and the ICTR. Studying these latter cases provides better understanding of why the USG is at once the strongest opponent of some ICTs and the most active supporter and funder of others.

Although this book focuses on USG policy on certain transitional justice options, the USG pursued additional initiatives following each related atrocity. For example, after WWII, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall devised and implemented his eponymous Plan, an aid package to help European states, including former antagonists, recover from the war and to combat the potential spread of communism.73 As another example, after the Rwandan genocide the USG instituted Operation Support Hope, a humanitarian relief project that assisted refugees.74 An analysis of these post-conflict development assistance efforts, however, is beyond this book’s scope. Furthermore, this project does not examine transitional justice plans targeting individuals or groups besides suspected atrocity perpetrators. Such options include providing compensation or reparations to victims; delivering physical and psychological therapy to survivors; constructing, rebuilding, and reforming public education, social programs, and civic institutions; and commemorating victims through museums, memorials, artistic representations, and other practical or symbolic initiatives.75

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