How to make justice work

RESTORATIVE justice entails the need for victims and perpetrators to understand each other in order for them to be accepted in society, an expert says.

Professor Howard Zehr said people needed to make the legal system work if they were to live a peaceful life.

The co-director of the Conflict Transformation Programm at the Eastern Mennonite University in United States was speaking at a public lecture on the promise and challenges of restorative justice at the University of the South Pacific on Monday evening.

He said something good about the Western legal system was that it made people pay for the crimes they committed.

He said victims needed a lot of answers on why a crime was committed against them, they needed to tell the truth in order to receive justice and they needed empowerment to be able to face the world.

“Restorative justice has a set of consistent values. We tend to bring systems from outside and regulate it into our own to make it work,” he said.

For offenders, Proffessor Zehr said there needed to be acceptable ways of dealing with shame in society.

Doctor Steven Ratuva of the Pacific Institute of Advanced Studies in Development and Governance said while a lot of people in Fiji used restorative justice, many of them did not understand it.

He said while the concept was relatively new it had been practiced for a long time.

Proffessor Zehr is the author of numerous books and articles and an adviser to a number of international organisations and governments.

The Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy, which co-ordinated his visit, said it was timely that we create the space to continue discussions on the issue.