Peace and justice are concepts that are very important to be considered whenever one talks of peace. In most countries, there are calls to build long-lasting peaceful relationships among the civilians or among two ethnic groups or among two conflicting nations. Authorities take it for granted that a mere talk or healing process will facilitate its mission in attaining peaceful solutions to a given impasse or stalemate. In this regard, this study seeks to explore the concept of peace and its relationship to justice. It will particularly consider the concept of Victors’ Peace (Peace by Victory). It will also illustrate the reasons why Victors’ Peace cannot be a preferable way in attaining durable peace. Furthermore, the study will examine the creation of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia as case studies for victors’ peace and the long term implications.
Peace & Justice
There are attempts to reconcile the concept of peace and the concept of justice. In fact, it is said that there can be no peace without justice. Normally, there are cases when a state can succumb to domestic crisis, for instance, out of a flawed election. In such cases there will be calls for peace and reconciliation among the citizens. So, will the aggrieved party accept to maintain peace if s/he feels that his/her rights have bee suppressed? This conflict is what can determine if a peace deal can be brokered, and that which can last for ever. So, it is important to understand the main principles of peace and of course, justice, and how it is related to durable maintenance of peace in a society.
Peace is that serene and calmness enjoyed by a political community, internally, by the well established order which reigns among its members, and externally, by the good relationship it has with the neighboring nations. Whenever peace is applied to the internal regulations of a state, it imports in a technical sense, a state of public order and decorum. In this regard, it will not be important to think of a peaceful state as that one of repose and security, as opposed to one of violence and warfare.
Any attempt to breach peace is an offence in law in most countries as it is always guided by the statutes in place. Its main component is disorderly conduct, for instance, use of abusive or obscene language publicly, refusing to accept a lawful arrest, and trespassing or damaging material goods or any other form of property when accompanied by malice and violence. The statutes require that any breach of peace must reflect a type of misbehavior resulting in public unrest or disturbance. For instance, a prostitute who solicits men on a public street from the window of her house will be found guilty of breaching the peace, while on the contrary, a woman who raises her voice to a police officer while been issued a ticket is not guilty of the same offence. Normally, the breaching of peace involves disturbance of peace. In those jurisdictions that do not have an exact statutory provision may punish it as a form of disorderly conduct. The penalties to it can include either a fine, imprisonment, or even both depending on the nature of crime. Therefore, any action that puts the public order in chaos is a breach of peace; for instance, intimidation may occur through displaying a pistol or arbitrary shouting.
In a just society, there is proper application of the law and also fair and equitable handling of all individuals under the law. The structures of a just society build on fairness, moral uprightness, and a law system in which all citizens get their due rights, whether natural or legal. It involves a perpetual disposition in rendering every person what is his/her due. In a just society, its actions and will conforms to the law.
An individual is regarded as a victor if s/he defeats an enemy in battle; in other words, victor is one who conquers an enemy. A victor’s peace is enforced in respect to the terms of the victorious side. In a victor’s justice, one entity believes that a victorious nation is applying diverse rules in judging what is right or wrong for their own forces and for those of the former enemy. It is believed that unlike peace of reconciliation, a victor’s peace leaves tings of resentment, astringent memories upon which terms of peace would rest though not permanently.
After the end of World War 1, there was established the League of Nations whose main task was to ensure that war never broke out again. It was considered as a major instrument in bringing stability to the world. When America entered World War 1 in 1917, it ended up horrified due to the slaughter that had taken place in what was meant to be a civilized part of the world. It resolved to create an international body that would maintain world peace and solve international disputes. This body is as mentioned above, that is, the League of Nations.
Peace is a process that requires total involvement of its principal objects. For instance, consider a situation where country X goes to war with country Y; it happens that country Y emerges victorious in the war. In so doing, it subjects country X into its own terms and conditions, not excluding peace. This in itself will leave country X insubordinate no matter what the inferiority it has towards country Y. In such a context, it cannot be expected that the peace terms advanced to country X will be of long-term benefit to it. Inherently, country X will still try to go beyond the terms of country Y especially due to its pursuit of justice and sovereignty. Indeed, there cannot be long-term peace if there is no justice in place. Consider the following argument: there cannot be peace without justice; a victor’s peace is enforced as per the terms of the victorious side; country X has its peace modalities within the terms of country Y, the victor. It can be inferred that peace, as far as country X is concerned, is through the windows of country Y. In this regard, it can be purported that country X is not autonomous in its peace initiatives where this by itself, is an injustice. So, it has been mentioned that there cannot be peace without justice, period! Therefore, it cannot be expected that country X’s peace system will last long since it does not derive from itself but derives from another country’s dictatorial procedures. This is why victor’s peace is not the way to go in any given situation. The chances are that the inferior entities will plot a hit back hence destabilizing all the systems of the victor peace.
Normally, the notion of just peace relates to the idea of a secure, enduring, even a universal peace. In this regard, peace becomes much more than the absence of war: it becomes a peace for all parties concerned, and it is also negotiated by all the parties concerned. It is important that there be consent. In Latin it is said that quod omnes tangit ad omnibus comprobetur which means that what concerns everybody ought to be approved by everybody. It therefore follows that the exclusion of one party cannot lead to any real peace. The notion of a just peace will always be at stake because justice itself is relative. Also, it is important to note that, a peace which is imposed and fails to resolve the grassroots causes of the conflict will remain brittle and it is not at all truly peaceful or just.
In such a case where peace is imposed in terms of the superior party, there is the danger of one of the party’s interests been left out from a settlement. It is true that one person’s justice may mean an injustice to another. Conflicts cannot be settled through the pursuit of a victor’s peace or victor’s justice given that there is no necessary connection between victory in war and peace or justice of the cause. It is not in order for any party to claim to be less unjust compared to the other party. Besides, it is an insufficient justification for imposing a victors’ peace to the inferior party. For there to be an enduring peace there has to be an amount of accountability in spite of the fact that this ideal is not possible in the aftermath of massive violence (Bonney 2000). In such an instance, there are normally too many victims and too many perpetrators such that even a quality criminal justice system would not be able to handle the dynamics of the situation. An enduring peace into the future builds on proper structures of restorative and retributive justice. For instance, the plight of refugees, acts of ethnic cleansing and other unpleasant violations of human rights must be adequately addressed by interim mechanisms of transnational justice prior to the full restoration of political, legal, economic and cultural institutions.
The indigenous efforts in national building, and more so, the role of the civic society, is core to the implementation of peace. It is actually imperative to construct new organizations whenever civic society grows weaker. The concept of Victors’ peace does not take into consideration the process that leads to a just peace. Just peace gives room for the parties involved in a conflict to embrace an amicable solution where all parties recognize each others’ identities, each surrendering some fundamental demands, that aside, each party accepting to abide by common rules jointly developed. It a process that both parties embrace each other and seek to agree to a fair and lasting peace by structuring it in a manner deemed just by all parties. It is important to note that the process of accommodation may entail settling for a common ground between different, potentially competing, identities. It is not proper to have a unilateral process in the creation of peace.
According to Adam Roberts (1987), imposition of just peace risked being altered to a peculiar version of the Pax Americana, where Europeans and others resented what they saw as American Dominance, while the Americans would show antipathy towards the endless demands which a troubled world seemed to impose on Washington.
There are three important conditions that must be met in order to realize a sustainable just peace. The survivors must be willing to forgive and forget the past at least to the point of acknowledging the human value of the enemies, which guarantees future possibility of co-existence. The peace brokered must be sufficiently just enough in the eyes of the key players, for instance, the leaders or members of the public, to merit their continued commitment. Finally, there must be a degree of trust necessary for both camps to anticipate a shared future. In general, the people must believe that the evils of the past will not return (Rigby 2005). It is believed that peace forced upon the loser is not the best way to go since only a peace between equals can last, only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.
The creation of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia
It is worth while to have a review on the repercussions of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia for international law. Here, the conduct of the community of states in current secession conflicts will also be considered. Indeed, it is important to examine if the community of states in the cases of the aforementioned countries has any implications on international law. It is believed that the need for this examination applies more in the case of Kosovo, given that many states have recognized its separation form Serbia. However, this does not exclude the cases of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is important to stress two fundamental terms namely: territory integrity and self-determination. These two qualities are values sought by a country that is pursuing independence and sovereignty. Such attempts apply to a country that is going through oppression and dominance from other superior countries. By logical implication, a state would not strive for sovereignty if it is comfortable with the imposed policies by another state. In the case of Victors’ peace, a country cannot be characterized by struggles to attain its peace and stability if the victors gave them their desired peace.
The separation of Kosovo from Serbia has raised eyebrows as to whether this conduct has any implications on international law. Another concern in regard to this conduct is whether it could be used as a legal precedent by other groups seeking separation, like in the case of Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Moldova, Spain, and Ukraine. Great Britain, Germany, and the United States did rule out the interpretation of the Kosovo case as a precedent. In addition, Russia did acknowledge the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia form Georgia.
The international right to session underscores the whole modalities of emancipation perceived from certain states against their mother state. This involves pursuit of territorial separation rights which derive from international law and which can be exercised by an oppressed minority group. Such scenarios are evident in former colonies that managed to break free from the colonial states. Only in those cases that secession is grounded on the decision made by the whole population of the mother state can it be compliant with international law. In addition, this is validated more if the secession is supported by the national law of the mother state and adheres to the respective secession procedure. By and large, a case attains legitimacy if the region annexed by another state in situations contrary to international law states publicly its secession from the annexing state.
Rights to secession for the minority groups can be successful only if the state consults the entire population through a national secessionist procedure. This means that the independence cannot be pursued unilaterally. This constellation is manifested in the case of Kosovo. It is indisputable that any ethnic group or a minority group is entitled to human rights, and indeed, all rights. They are also entitled to internal right to self-determination. This creates a free atmosphere and organization of state order as well as the relationship of the citizens with their government. In principle, any ethnic or minority group is not entitled to an external offensive right to self-determination. Notably, the external right to self-determination is basically orchestrated towards the construction of an independent state of one’s own, which one can refer to as secession. However, the right to secession is discarded in the context of the territorial integrity of the mother state.
The Kosovo Albanians did not give up in their pursuit for independence where this led to increased tensions between the Albanians and the Serbians. The migrations of the majority of the Serbians and Montenegrins over the subsequent periods occasioned many Serbian fears. The Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic used this to his advantage during his reign, and the repercussions costed Kosovo’s quest for independence, hence breeding further tensions. The autonomy of Kosovo was completely held hostage and over the years the tensions between Serbian forces and the Albanian resulted to a resembling war. The civilian population of Kosovo was driven into exile, where they also succumbed to acts of violence from the Serbians. International attempts to intervene in the situation did not bear any fruits; NATO even used air strikes that aimed at ending the expulsions. Kosovo lived under the UN Interim Administration Mission. The international peace-keeping troops ensured security and safety of the civilians.
It is believed that in spite of the historical, political, and social differences, the cases of Abkhazia and South Ossetia manifest strong parallels when compared to the case of Kosovo. In the event that indications of reform and decay began to immerge throughout the entire Eastern Bloc, strong independence movements began to erupt in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In this light, none of the region had any more right than Kosovo in claiming secession under national or international law. On this ground, the community of states persistently refused to take notice of the independence of the two breakaway regions from Georgia. Indeed, the two regions were not granted rights to recessions. However, in the course of the Russia-Georgia conflict, Russia took notice of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Medvedev, the Russian President, referred to the freewill of the people of Abkhazian and South Ossetia. He went further to state that Georgia had failed to work for a peaceful solution for many years (BBC 2008). In the point of view of Russia, independence was the best way forward in the protection of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This hypothesis was reaffirmed by the UN Charter, the Friendly Relations Declarations and the CSCE Final Act. The important goal of Russia in this matter was not based on the de facto status existing in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but it referred to the widely controversial external right to self-determination of civilians. As mentioned earlier long, Russia had denied this in the case of Kosovo. The Russians were supported by Nicaragua in recognizing the two regions. Indeed, many countries followed suit, for instance, France, Germany and the USA, who actually had abandoned the idea of independence for the two regions. They all unanimously pointed to the need in protecting the territorial integrity of Georgia.
We have seen that peace is a process that cannot be imposed to an agent; otherwise it loses its desired meaning. I believe that one cannot force another to be peaceful. It is a conscious decision from the subject and it must be sought by the same subject. It is for this reason that peace by victory will never be a durable framework for a sustainable peace in any given state. Normally, peace goes together with justice. I support the notion that Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia cannot be peaceful by merely imposing terms of peace on them by the Victors; they have to win their peace in a framework of justice. We have mentioned the modalities that must be met in brokering for a durable peace. Therefore, let the victors ensure that there is justice in all levels when they seek to control or reorganize the peace structures of an inferior state.
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