Bosnia Daily: The Promise and Peril of Regional Truth Seeking in the Balkans

The author assesses the projected ambitious goals of the recent regional non-governmental truth-seeking initiative for ex Yugoslavia, arguing that its innovative regional approach is both its strength and a significant weakness that might undermine the goal of establishing a coherent historical narrative.

The past decade has seen an unprecedented surge of international interest in transitional justice – the systematic addressing of mass crimes of the past. Most of the scholarly discussion about transitional justice has focused on two major pragmatic and normative debates. The first question is whether societies coming out of violent pasts should set up any transitional justice initiatives at all or should instead focus on the future, leaving the past to rest. The second debate is about institutional design, where the choice for transitional democracies is limited to sequencing – what should come first, war crimes trials of individual perpetrators or truth commissions. In other words, the debate has been about what is more urgent for a traumatized postwar society: justice or truth and healing.

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