OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

usiplogo.gif (1499 bytes)

International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Criminal Prosecution

Opening Page | Glossary | Menu Shortcut Page

Often responsibility for serious acts of injustice and criminal behavior lies with a few individuals and not the larger group or society to which these individuals belong. In these cases, it is generally more desirable to direct counter-force strategies upon those "responsible" individuals and not the larger community. In extreme cases this may involve criminal prosecution by war crimes tribunals for "crimes against humanity." In less extreme cases the guilty parties can be tried under domestic laws for handling conflict in a socially unacceptable way.

For example, individuals who kill civil rights leaders as part of a personal campaign to preserve a segregated society can be tried for murder and people who take hostages can be tried for kidnapping. Criminal prosecution can also be used against those who abuse the court system by filing unfounded and frivolous cases to harass opponents. People can also be tried for bribery or unfair election practices.   There are also cases in which larger police, military, or paramilitary organizations are responsible for criminal behavior. In these cases military action or a change of leadership may be required before criminal proceedings can begin. 

One of the most difficult dilemmas facing new regimes is deciding who to prosecute, and who to forgive, or whether a blanket amnesty should be granted to people on the opposing side in an effort to put past difficulties "behind us."  Criminal prosecution of human rights abusers gives the victims some sense of finality and justice; but at the same time, it discourages perpetrators from coming forward with the truth about what really happened, which is also necessary for reconciliation.  Widespread criminal prosecution also can lead to a prolonged conflict between the groups.  If military personnel or civilians think that they are likely to be dealt with harshly by a new regime, they are likely to fight harder to prevent that new regime from gaining control, and they can continue to oppose the new regime after it is installed.  This can prolong a conflict--and the associated human rights abuses--longer than it might have otherwise gone on. 

Links to Examples

Accounting for War Crimes in Cambodia
The article describes the issues discussed during a conference on war crimes in Cambodia.
Neil J. Kritz -- The Dilemmas of Transitional Justice
Transitional justice deals with the problems faced by societies which are making the transition from repressive regimes to more democratic orders. One of those dilemmas is whether or not to prosecute the crimes committed under the old regime.  Those and other related dilemmas are discussed here.
Mary Albon --  Justice in Times of Transition
This article supplements the last by adding a discussion about the justice dilemmas posed by the transition to a democratic governmental structure.
Jose Zalaquett -- Confronting Human Rights Violations Committed by Former Governments
This is another look at the problem of criminal prosecution of members of old, repressive regimes.
Jamal Benomar -- Justice After Transition
This is a summary of another article taken from Kritz's book on transitional justice.

Links to Outside Sources of Information

Victim Offender Mediation Association - Articles and Publications
Note:  This site has several very useful full text articles on alternatives to criminal prosecution of offenders.
Police Functions in Peace Operations - United States Institute of Peace
Maintaining or reestablishing the rule of law is a crucial element in the success of peace operation.
Rwanda: Accountability for War Crimes and Genocide--United States Institute of Peace - Special Report
This article discusses the use of an international tribunal and of trials before Rwandan courts as approaches for dealing with the Rwandan genocide.

US Institute of Peace Special Report: Dayton Implementation: The Apprehension and Prosecution of Indicted War Criminals

U.S. Institute of Peace --Rwanda After the Genocide

U.S. Institute of Peace--Legal Help for Rwanda

U.S. Institute of Peace--Police Are Critical to the Peace Process

Links to Related Sections

Legitimizing the Use of Force

Assuming Monolithic, Worst Case Opponent



Apology and Forgiveness

Dealing with Extremists

Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu