Peacebuilding, law and human rights

Authored by: Christine Bell

Routledge Handbook of Peacebuilding

Print publication date:  January  2013
Online publication date:  February  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415690195
eBook ISBN: 9780203068175
Adobe ISBN: 9781135082130


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Human rights violations are an inter-connected part of contemporary intra-state conflict. They are both structural causes of conflict and symptoms of conflict (Parvleliet 2009). Addressing such violations is therefore an integral part of any peacebuilding process. The project of post-conflict peacebuilding generally includes substantial reform of law and legal institutions. Peace settlements tend to provide for human rights in the form of bills of rights, incorporation of international instruments, reform of policing and criminal justice apparatus, together with an array of new national human rights institutions. This provision aims to stop human rights violations and ensure that in the future such abuses cannot take place. Human rights provisions aim to restrict untrammelled and abusive use of power, in particular with regard to the use of lethal force. Although neutral in coverage, human rights provisions, at their heart, touch on how power is allocated and exercised as between the protagonists to the conflict. Such provision cannot be conceived of as ‘additional’ to the political reforms at the heart of any peacebuilding project; but must be understood as a vital component of those reforms to be supported or resisted by parties to the conflict depending on their support for or resistance to the transition from conflict and depending on the new balance of power.

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