The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law May 2011
ADR @ Moritz

Schwartz Lecturer John Braithwaite Shares a World of Knowledge on Restorative Justice

The Annual Schwartz Lecture on Dispute Resolution featured John Braithwaite, a renowned force in the restorative justice movement. Braithwaite used pictures and videos from his work with Truth and Reconciliation commissions around the world to challenge the sequence of “truth, justice, reconciliation” that is part of the standard understanding of how these commissions should be established.

Braithwaite is the founder and head of the Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet) at the Research School for Social Sciences at Australian National University in Canberra and an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow. Braithwaite currently leads a long-term project called Peacebuilding Compared, which involves the healing of entire societies ravaged by war. The project aims to document the successes and failures of peacekeeping efforts around the world, to present reports for each continent, and to have an impact on future efforts. The project currently has twelve case studies of armed conflict, none of which, Braithwaite explained, fit the standard model. “Zero out of 12 is a discouraging hit rate for a social theorist,” he joked.

One interesting example shared by Braithwaite that did not fit the model was from his experience in Indonesia after the fall of President Suharto in 1998. There were seven armed conflicts that each took over 1000 lives. During the reconciliation process, which Braithwaite made real for the audience at Moritz with video of the actual proceedings, the perpetrators did not engage in the expected “truth telling” that social theorists had come to expect. In fact, often reconciliation was based on lies in which all sides acquiesced - the most common one being that it was ‘outside provocateurs’ who started the violence, when in fact it was locals who both started and finished the killing on both sides. Braithwate has dubbed this a “non-truth and reconciliation” process, but one that seems to have worked.

Given this and other examples of non-standard restorative justice, Braithwaite encouraged the audience to be open to processes that proceed in any order of truth, justice, and reconciliation. He also has concluded that since that the most traumatized victims of violence often take the longest time to be ready to participate in transitional justice, and that it often takes many years of traditional reconciliation work before perpetrators of the worst atrocities acquire the confidence that they can confess their crimes without fear of revenge attacks, TRCs should be permanent institutions, keeping their doors open to assist with truth, reconciliation, and justice at whatever point in time victims and perpetrators are emotionally ready.

The lecture was recorded and is available for viewing on the Moritz Law website. John Braithwaite will be preparing an article further exploring this topic which will be published in The Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution.

The Schwartz Lecture on Dispute Resolution was established in 1992 as a result of the generosity of the late Stanley Schwartz Jr. (a 1947 Moritz College of Law graduate) and the Schwartz family. Each lecture is published in the interdisciplinary Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, in keeping with Mr. Schwartz’s interest in the promotion of scholarly publication in the area of dispute resolution.

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The Caucus, the newsletter published by the Moritz Program on Dispute Resolution, is designed to share ADR news with the Moritz community and beyond, as well as provide Moritz students with information regarding externship and employment opportunities. Questions regarding this publication should be directed to Erin Archerd, Langdon Fellow in Dispute Resolution.