Truth, justice, and reconciliation on the ground: normative divergence in the Western Balkans

Abstract

The article contributes to the ‘second wave’ norm diffusion literature by offering a new theoretical lens through which to explain unexpected policy outcomes of international normative interventions. Specifically, the article aims to challenge the international norms scholarship by questioning what power international norms actually have in domestic politics of adopting states. To answer this question I analyse the process of diffusion, contestation, and localisation of transitional justice norms — ways of dealing with legacies of past violence — in the Western Balkans. I choose three principal transitional justice concepts — truth, justice, and reconciliation — and analyse how their local meaning in the Western Balkans diverged normatively from that of international transitional justice advocates, and to what political effect. I trace the processes of normative divergence of international transitional justice norms to demonstrate how the domestic understanding of international norms produced new meanings and practices and fundamentally challenged the principal assumptions behind the global governance of post-conflict reconstruction.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See regular surveys by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, available at http://www.bgcentar.org.rs/bgcentar/eng-lat/istrazivanje-javnog-mnenja/stavovi-prema-ratnim-zlocinima-haskom-tribunalu-domacem-pravosudu-za-ratne-zlocine.

  2. 2.

    Regional Commission asked with establishing the facts about all victims of war crimes and other serious human rights violations committed on the territory of the Former Yugoslavia in the period from 1991 to 2001.

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Acknowledgements

I thank Filip Ejdus, Krenar Gashi, Jamie Rowen, the staff at the Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade, guest editors of the special issue Simone Tholens and Lisa Gross, editors of the Journal of International Relations and Development, and three anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments and suggestions.

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Subotic, J. Truth, justice, and reconciliation on the ground: normative divergence in the Western Balkans. J Int Relat Dev 18, 361–382 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/jird.2015.13

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Keywords

  • international norms
  • justice
  • reconciliation
  • transitional justice
  • truth
  • Western Balkans