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Three Debates in Transitional Justice

Developments in the theory and practice of transitional justice have also been reflected in three main debates that have preoccupied scholars and practitioners since the 1980s. The historical development of these debates is important for our purposes for it serves to further underpin our broad understanding of transitional justice and helps to further establish the context in which new developments in transitional justice have taken place in the Asia-Pacific. The three key debates in question emerged around three sets of dichotomous extremes:

  • (1) prosecution versus pardon, also referred to as trial versus amnesty, or justice versus peace;
  • (2) retributive versus restorative justice, variants of which included ‘justice versus truth, perpetrator-focused versus victim-centered approaches, and backward-looking versus forward-looking approaches; and,

(3) top-down versus bottom-up, or state-led versus civil society-initiated approaches, or international versus local approaches.

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