Writing the history of violence anew: transitional justice and reconciliation through childrens narrative

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Sirna, Caterina
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This research attempts to explore the possibilities of rethinking the mechanism of transitional justice within a new framework stemming from psychological and social science. Rather than focusing on the debate whether it is better to punish or to forgive past wrongdoings, it points out the necessity of fully respecting the memory of suffering in order to create a healing narrative. As victims of mass atrocities or totalitarian regimes are told to be unique and qualitative different from victims of ordinary crimes, my research has attempted to shed a light to those mechanisms within transitional justice, which better respond to the need of victims. Supported by new researches in the field of psychology and social science, my thesis states that neither the court nor a non- judicial system can offer a complete sense of justice after mass atrocities. However, this does not mean that a post-conflict society does not need legal intervention in terms of accountability. It implies instead another important assumption: peace and stability can be obtained when truth has been fully disclosed and historicized. In this sense, the government of a society in transition has the duty to adopt any instrument that would allow the construction of a shared narrative and memory, which has a healing effect in the long run. Within this new paradigm, reconciliation aimed by transitional justice becomes a concrete amount of emotions, attitudes and behavior, which can be measured. Reconciliation is thus seen as equal neither to forgetting, nor to forgiving, nor even to a diminished sense of vengeance. It is seen instead as a making-sense process of one's own story through the story of another. The narratives of children becomes precious and equally important to the adult's own in this process. In this respect, the work done by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission child-friendly version in Sierra Leone is notable in this effort to create a new narrative of war, where understanding the past and promoting hope for a better future will allow to never again commit the same mistakes of the past.
Second semester University: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
collective memory, human rights education, psychology, reconciliation, transitional justice