When Martin Luther King Jr. stood outside a California prison where Vietnam war protesters were being held on December 14, 1967, he stated: “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.”
What his formulation points to is that peace and justice are interdependent – you can not have one without the other.
At the heart of efforts to foster sustainable peace in post-conflict societies is the need to hold perpetrators of violence and human rights abuses accountable for their acts and to achieve justice for victims and reconciliation between communities in conflict.
As such, transitional justice programs – which include truth commissions, trials, reparations programs and historical memory initiatives such as oral history projects – play a vital role in creating conditions for peace and preventing future conflict.
By establishing a historical record, countering denial, ensuring accountability, ending impunity and fostering reconciliation and socio-political reconstruction, justice and accountability are the building blocks for lasting reconciliation.