Transitional Justice and the Tensions

Renee Jeffery

Between 1998 and 2003, the Solomon Islands experienced a period of violent civil conflict known as ‘The Tensions.’ By the time the conflict drew to a close, an estimated 200 people were dead and more than 11,000 had been displaced from their homes (TRC Report 2012: 737). During the conflict, at least 5700 were committed, including 1413 reported cases of torture, 212 abductions, 95 cases of illegal detention, and 62 cases of sexual violence, although ‘due to cultural taboos only a small number of sexual violence cases were reported’ and, as such, the true number of sexual assaults is likely to be much higher (TRC Report 2012: 737-738). At the same time, 1856 properties were violated, some burnt to the ground and others, including schools, hospitals, and police stations looted (TRC Report 2012: 738).

In the years that have elapsed since the end of The Tensions, numerous approaches to transitional justice have been implemented in the Solomon Islands including amnesties, prosecutions, reparations, customary r econciliation ceremonies, forgiveness practices, and the establishment of the Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Despite more than a decade of transitional justice in the Solomon Islands, however, very little attention has been paid to the practices and

R. Jeffery (*)

School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia

© The Author(s) 2017

R. Jeffery (ed.), Transitional Justice in Practice, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-59695-6_1

processes engaged there (among the few exceptions are works by Renee Jeffery 2013, 2014a; Louise Vella 2014b; Susan Harris-Rimmer 2010; and John Braithwaite’s 2010 team). This book remedies that oversight by providing the first comprehensive analysis of transitional justice in the Solomon Islands, from the period of the Tensions to the present. It examines how global trends and debates about transitional justice were played out in the Solomon Islands, how its key mechanisms were adapted to meet the specific demands of post-conflict justice in this local context, and how well its practices and processes fulfilled their perceived functions.

With this in mind, this introductory chapter seeks to situate the case of the Solomon Islands and the individual chapters of this volume in the context of broader trends in the theory and practice of transitional justice. It begins by detailing both the set of international norms that underpin transitional justice processes and practices, and the debates that surround their implementation. The chapter then turns to examine the ‘local’ dimensions of transitional justice. In doing so, it argues that although transitional justice processes may be underpinned in legal, moral, and theoretical terms by internationally recognized global norms, the practice of transitional justice is always, to some extent, local. That is, whether imposed from above as part of top-down, formal, or internationally driven processes, generated from below as part of grass-roots, customary, or community- based processes, or constituted by a mixture of both, transitional justice practices always take place in particular local contexts and are shaped by local demands. For both scholars and practitioners of transitional justice, a fundamental set of questions thus centers on the universal applicability of global justice norms and the mechanisms they underpin, the extent to which common practices can be adapted to fit local circumstances, the degree to which they resonate with target populations, and the ways in which they interact with local practices. It is precisely this set of questions that the chapters included in this volume address.

 
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