"You are under arrest. The very concept makes it impossible for you to move."
Demolition Man
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Restorative Justice - Between State Punishment and Vigilantism

Recent years have seen a new response to crime. Under the headline of “Restorative justice”, attempts are made to reintroduce the parties directly affected by crime. Within this new framework, crime is understood, primarily, as harm to individuals and communities, rather than simply a violation of abstract laws against the state. Instead of owing a “debt to society”, the offender owes a specific debt to the victim and the community. How to repay this debt is decided through a process of negotiation between the parties involved.

However promising, Restorative Justice poses a serious challenge to fundamental principles of modern constitutional states. In general, taking the right and the power to right serious wrongs out of the hands of individuals remain one of the key-characteristics of these states. Instead, both are put into the hands of an overarching state, mainly by monopolizing the use of force and subjecting everyone to a rule of law, i.e., working out general, standing laws that determine legal obligation in any particular case, thereby constituting a shield against tyranny or arbitrary rule. Apparently, Restorative Justice is in conflict with this "milestone of civilization", and I am investigating the philosophical implications of this conflict.

In addition, I am investigating possible conflicts between interests in prosecuting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes at The International Criminal Court on the one hand, and interests in granting amnesties through Truth and Reconciliation Commissions after the South African Model on the other.

Jakob v. H. Holtermann

PhD & MA (Phil.), BA (Phil. & Lit.)

Associate Professor of Jurisprudence
iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts
Faculty of Law

University of Copenhagen
DK-1455 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3532 3954
Mobile: +45 2680 2646
Mail: jvhh@jur.ku.dk