One of the main themes of the seminar, and one that Juan E. Méndez, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, addressed in his remarks, is that of the relationship between processes of building peace and processes of dispensing justice.
This relationship becomes especially important in countries that are emerging from armed conflict. Mr. Mendez noted that a significant dilemma is posed by these two processes; there exists a very real danger that if the two are pursued separately, decisions taken during the peace process may close the door for justice in the future.
While further pointing out that peace should not trump justice in these contexts, he also acknowledged that it becomes very difficult to convince armed groups to disarm when there is a possibility that they would subsequently be sent to jail. The discussion was concluded with the recognition that greater attention ought to be spent on building capacities at the national level to dispense justice to victims.
Transitional justice should be conceptualised in broad terms: it is composed of both judicial and non-judicial means. Moreover, it is often the case that the distinction between peace and justice is often irrelevant at the local level; rather, they are viewed as interchangeable aspects of the same process – hence, the imperative need to reconcile peace efforts with justice efforts.