Punishment involves the imposition by some party (P) on some other party (W) of a burden, harm, or cost which W has aprima facie right not to incur, in response to a wrongdoing which W committed against some agent (V). Justified punishment is necessarily a response to some wrongdoing, and a comprehensive justification for it—which is beyond my remit here—must thus delineate a plausible set of wrongdoings the commission of which warrants it. For my purposes in this book, it suffices to say that, if some wrongdoings do warrant it, then culpable attacks on other parties’ human rights clearly do. Those rights, you recall, protect individuals’ interests in the freedoms and resources they need to lead a flourishing life. Secure enjoyment of those goods requires that individuals have reasons to expect that others not only will desist from harming them wrongfully, but will also be willing to attach sanctions to such acts.
That last clause points to yet another task which a comprehensive justification for punishment sets itself—namely to explain why it is important that those acts should be sanctioned. Such an explanation will show, in particular, why punishing W does not wrong him (or, put differently, why W is liable to punishment). But it will also show that it is all things considered a justified thing to do. Those are different claims: it may well be that punishment does not wrong W, in the sense that W is liable to be punished and lacks a grievance if he is, but that there are countervailing (moral) considerations for not doing it (for example, punishing him would impose disproportionate harm on third parties, such as his dependent children). Finally, a comprehensive theory of punishment must provide an account of who may punish (P).
In the remainder of this section, I shall defend (briefly) an expressivist account of punishment whereby the latter is justified as a means to express one’s commitment to victims’ equal moral standing. Notwithstanding important criticisms of expressivism in general, and the strengths of rival accounts, this strikes me as the most promising view. It is worth noting, however, that much (though not all) of what I then go on to say about punishment for war-related crimes in ss.7.3 to 7.6 is compatible with those rival accounts. Accordingly, my treatment of this particular feature of peace after war is more ecumenical than might appear at first sight.