Looking Backward to Address the Future? Transitional Justice, Rising Crime, and Nation-Building

This Article considers the role of crime in transitional states. I draw on three case studies, two from Latin America (Brazil and El Salvador), and one from sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa). It first briefly considers the similarity in focus of transitional justice approaches to police and criminal justice reform, invoking acculturation theory to explain the replication of a dominant, backward-looking script across different transitional states. Next, it considers the frequent inability of police and the criminal justice system to cope adequately with rising crime using these replicated scripts and the consequences of this failure for the defense of human rights, the rule of law, and the stability of new democracies. The Article assesses the particular dynamics of these processes for each of the three country case studies. Throughout the Article, I seek to demonstrate that it is crucial to address deficiencies in domestic criminal justice systems precisely during periods of transition and that criminal justice solutions should be developed at this time-to the extent possible-in an objective and comprehensive fashion, rather than in ways that seek to respond to problems of the pre-transitional state. In this way, I suggest, transitional justice can progress beyond existing, backward-looking frameworks to build nations capable of addressing the challenges they will face as they move forward.

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