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The Significance Of Reparations In The Context Of Mass Atrocity

5086 words - 20 pages

Hugh Munro 73876776 DIPL403: Ethics and International Relations Research PaperThe Significance of Reparative Justice in the Context of Mass Atrocity:By Hugh MunroReparations are often described as those measures which are taken to eliminate the moral dissonance that exists between perpetrator and victim after the former acts in a way that harms or violates the rights of the latter. The perpetrator of such an act is said to have an obligation to pay some form of reparation to the victim who has a corresponding entitlement to that reparation. But what about acts so atrocious that no amount of reparation could possibly make up for the loss suffered by the victims? Acts of torture and mass murder seem to create a moral gulf so deep that rather than being reparative, reparations can appear insulting or meaningless. My aim in this essay is to consider what meaning and significance programs of reparative justice can hope to aim for in situations which involve mass murder, torture, or any other atrocious act that can be deemed beyond the scope of full compensation. I will start by discussing what constitutes a relevant relationship when considering reparative justice and suggest that the passage of time and state-continuity have a significant impact on perpetrator - victim based relationships. I will use arguments made by Thompson (2002), who suggests we must take an 'obligations-dependent' approach to reparative justice, and Waldron (1992), who emphasises the need to see justice as a prospective enterprise, to suggest that the relevant relationship is not strictly between perpetrator and victim. My next section will build on this assertion and argue that the relevant relationship in reparative considerations needs to be based on relations of respect between individuals in the present who have inherited an unjust past rather than on perpetrator-victim based relationships. I will explain that this shift in the relevant relationship for reparative justice is accompanied by a change in the form that reparation programs will take by pointing out a shift in the literature which focuses on more symbolic reparative measures as opposed to pure compensation. I will argue that a focus on symbolic reparations does not preclude the need for monetary or material reparations and that when the harm is nonmonetary, monetary repair takes on a symbolic role. My next section will then introduce an argument made by Adrian Vermeule that provides a defence for the intuition that even though a first-best, fully compensatory reparative program may be impossible, it may nevertheless be prudent, or indeed mandatory, to enact some form of compensation anyway. Vermeule calls this intuition 'Rough Justice'. I will end this section by pointing out that ultimately the force of the 'Rough Justice' intuition is negative and is therefore too vague to make a meaningful contribution to reparative justice. It is at this point that I will suggest that the focus of reparations must be shifted...

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