Transitional Justice and Retributive Justice

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Journal Article
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2019, 22 (2), pp. 385 - 398
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© 2019, Springer Nature B.V. Many people have the intuition that the failure to impose punishment on perpetrators of such serious human rights violations as murder, torture and rape that occurred in the course of violent conflict preceding a society’s transition from authoritarianism to democracy amounts to an injustice. This intuition is to an appreciable extent accounted for by the retributivist outlook of a high proportion of those who share it. Colleen Murphy, however, though she accepts that retributivism may justify punishment of offenders in stable democracies, claims in her recent book on transitional justice that retributivism is inapplicable in the circumstances of transitional justice. I argue that the four arguments she provides in support of this claim are unsuccessful and that retributivism, assuming it to be a tenable rationale for punishment, justifies the subjection of perpetrators of at least some serious human rights abuses to sanctions in at least some transitional societies.
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