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Justice vs. Peace

The Relationship Between Justice and Peace

Examine the complex relationship between justice and truth, peace, and reconciliation.


Consider the discussion points below, then write a one- to two-page response explaining what you would do in the scenario outlined.

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Consider alternative models of justice around the world.



Listen to and watch media about justice in animals and consider key related questions.



Contemplate the role and value of apology in “correcting” an injustice and fostering reconciliation.

Forest Path

Example Scenario

A civil war has been taking place in Country X for the last 10 years between the government and a rebel group. It is a very violent war, and both sides have lost thousands of lives. The rebels have committed crimes against humanity but are impossible to catch, hiding for months at a time in the thick wilderness. To make matters worse for the government, the rebel movement only becomes stronger, recruiting new soldiers and acquiring new weapons. There is no end to the war in sight.

Imagine you are the government’s chief negotiator and are face-to-face with the rebel leader. You have two choices: grant the rebels immunity and end the war, or demand justice and let the war continue, possibly for many more years. What do you do?

As this example illustrates, it is not always possible for justice and peace to complement each other. Situations like this have arisen in the real world many times.

Note: This scenario is adapted from Rylan Sekiguchi, An Examination of War Crimes Tribunals (Stanford, CA: SPICE, 2005).

What would you do in this situation? Would you prioritize ending the war or demanding justice? Why? How do you think your decision will affect the future of Country X? (Consider the long-term legacies of your decision.)

Writing Prompt

The example scenario below describes a situation in which the paths to justice and peace are opposed, not complementary.

Consider the discussion points below and write a one- to two-page response explaining what you would do in the scenario.

Earlier, we reflected on the relationship between justice and concepts like truth, peace, and reconciliation. Several of the quotes we read about justice related justice to these concepts.


Do you believe that these concepts are mutually reinforcing (e.g., the more justice there is in society, the more truth, peace, and reconciliation)? All the time, most of the time, or sometimes? Why?

Finally, the rebel leader agrees to peace talks, but he refuses to sign any peace agreement that requires him or his soldiers to face criminal charges. He would rather continue fighting than submit himself and his soldiers to imprisonment.

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