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Transitional justice in Ukraine: peaceful future threatened by profiteers

More thoughts about transitional justice in modern Ukraine from the chief of the Analytical Department of UHHRU Oleg Martynenko

“Peace”, “reconciliation”, “UN peacekeeping mission” – these words are trending now, they are on the tongues of virtually every political force in Ukraine, not to mention a significant portion of civil society organizations. The prospects for resolving the conflict in Ukraine vary greatly, depending on the expert you ask – from military victory after several successful operations to peace that Russia’s “peacekeeping” units will bring to Donbas. It is clear however that Ukraine’s domestic politics should beware political maneuvering as to the differing interpretations of peacekeeping efforts and their ultimate outcome – peace itself. We can already hear talk of stalling the UN peacekeeping mission, punishing collaborators and establishing special forces for the de-occupation of Donbas and even Crimea.

Oleg Martynenko, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Head of the Analytical Department
Oleg Martynenko, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Head of the Analytical Department

History remembers well how the concept of peace was exploited by Colt, which released the first generation of Peacemaker revolvers in 1873. Over the course of their long service, 357,859 units of this model helped “bring peace” to Native Americans and established themselves as military issue firearms. This was strictly business though, with the word “peace” being used to benefit the arms trade. The political aspect was joined to the commercial one later by the creators of a somewhat more powerful peace-bringing work – land-based ICBM Peacemaker (1986). Later still, peace through force proved popular with NATO during the Yugoslav conflict (1995-1999) and Russia in the invasion of South Ossetia (2008). These examples of commercial and political exploitation of the concept of peace are in sharp contrast to UN’s all but unnoticeable sending of some 100,000 peacekeepers from more than 120 countries every year to establish and maintain peace.

So what is important for Ukraine in our peacekeeping efforts?

First of all, we must assert that certain roads toward peace are unacceptable. As for suitable methods, they could be a treaty, provisional government under UN supervision, or elections and referendums that would reflect Ukraine’s international commitments and would not violate the rights of citizens.

Secondly, the population needs to see the whole picture of the world that certain scenarios could result in. This picture should not shy away from the fact that such a world might not be the idyllic and conflict-free existence that some envision. Its best and only feature might be the absence of open hostilities. But ideological and political battles, spiking crime rates, profiteering from losses and international aid – all of this might still remain even after the conflict ends.

Third, the country needs a nationwide information space with clear and uniform definitions of key terms, such as “reconciliation”, “amnesty”, “lustration”, “compensation”, “conflict victim”. Which is why the importance of experts and media cannot be stressed enough, since it’s them who will be introducing international terminology into the national discourse for subsequent codification in the law.

If we fail to consider all these aspects, Ukrainian society risks falling prey to profiteers that always show up in times of legal uncertainty and shortage of information.

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