In Focus | Could "Restorative Justice" be "Honest Technical Oversight" or it is no more than "Dishonest Mistake"?
On December 16, 2020, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, gave a briefing to the UN Security Council on the political process within the framework of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, in which he stated that some members of the civil society (Middle Third) delegation used the term "restorative justice" in the principles the put forward.
Immediately, 6 members of the civil society delegation rushed to issue a statement denying any circulation of such a concept, calling for the adoption of "restitutive justice" instead in the context of talking about housing land and property rights only, which was presented in the oral and written statements.
Correspondence with the Special Envoy and the lobbying campaign resulted in the release of a clarification by the Office of the Special Envoy on December 18 in which it considered that the use of “restorative justice” came as a result of "an honest technical oversight in a translation, and consequently; it is assumed that the error contained, according to the explanatory document approved by the UN envoy should be corrected, but adding it as an appendix to the original record, because it is not subject to deletion or change of content.
"Restorative justice" is an alternative concept to "criminal justice", limited only to the standard of reparation, and the adoption of this concept eliminates the rest of the standards stipulated in transitional justice; that is, prosecution, truth commissions and institutional reform.
Although "restitutive justice" is also limited to reparation, it differs from "restorative justice" in the issue of equality, as the former proceeds from the implementing of genuine rather than legal equality, in contrary the latter pushes towards legal rather than real equality, where victims forgive perpetrators and renounce their rights.
It does not seem that the use of this term "restorative justice" in the briefing of the UN envoy came actually as a result of an unintended technical error in translation, which reflects either a desire to match the approach of Russia, that had previously used by "Vitaly Naumkin", a Russian advisor to U.N. former envoy, ”Staffan de Mistura" or represents the UN’s intention to bring this concept to public debate in the Syrian milieu, so that the tug of war that occurred regarding this matter might lead to entrench it as a "more realistic" option than "transitional justice."
The United Nations usually takes into account the balance of power between the actors in countries experiencing conflicts that have an international extension, such as the situation in Syria, thus; its role is not limited to mediation to discuss solutions, but rather to push for approaches that respond to the balance of power.
It is noted that the term “restorative justice” was not circulated by the regime’s delegation, perhaps due to the fact that justice in its various concepts is not related to the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Committee, so the delegation considered that such a proposal may be immediately met with a categorical rejection based on the provisions agreed upon between the parties.
Accordingly; it seems that the United Nations tried to take advantage of the inclusion of the term “restitutive justice” in the context of property rights by the civil society delegation to introduce the term “restorative justice”, in the hope of passing it on and adopting it as an alternative to “transitional justice”.
Unit of Analysis and Thinking - Jusoor for Studies