Need to 'live together' key to transitional justice: Raz (Focus Taiwan)

  • Joseph Raz, 2018 Tang Prize Laureate in Rule of Law
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Focus Taiwan

Taipei, Sept. 22 (CNA) Any approach to transitional justice must take into account that people need to "continue to live together in one country" after regime change, Joseph Raz, the 2018 Tang Prize laureate in the rule of law, said Saturday.

Given that the complexities surrounding the issue of transitional justice vary by country, "there is no solution that fits all," Raz said. "But there is one thing that I think does fit all -- they need to continue to live together in one country."

Raz offered his insight in response to a question on transitional justice following a lecture on "The Law's Own Virtue," given a day after he received his Tang Prize.

All Tang Prize laureates were to give lectures on their fields of expertise Saturday.

The implementation of transitional justice has been a hot-button issue in Taiwan. Initiatives have been taken to redress the injustices left by Taiwan's martial law period from 1949 to 1987, but they have often proved controversial and colored by partisan politics.

Raz said many countries have struggled to respond to transitional justice issues, but they face different problems due to their different circumstances and do not have many precedents to guide them or clear principles they can apply.

After an unjust regime is replaced, people have to bear in mind that they have to treat everybody "as brothers and sisters, broadly speaking," even those who carried out orders on behalf of the old regime simply because they were "caught in a dilemma," he said.

That mindset is necessary not only because they are all human beings who deserve respect but because "we want to continue to live together," Raz said.

The challenge people face after regime change is preventing the "triumph of justice and humanity" from being "self-defeating," Raz said. "We have to find solutions to the tough problems of transitional justice that can lead to reconciliation."

The question on transitional justice was one of several Raz took from local reporters and academics after delivering his lecture to an audience of several hundred, including Albie Sachs, the founding justice of South Africa's Constitutional Court and 2014 Tang Prize laureate in the rule of law.

The 2018 Tang Prize in rule of law was awarded to Raz for his groundbreaking contributions to the field that have helped deepen people's understanding of the nature of law, legal reasoning and the relationship between law, morality and freedom.

In his lecture, Raz argued that the rule of law is the law's own virtue, "respect for which is needed for the law to have any other virtue."

The rule of law consists of principles that constrain the way government actions change and apply the law -- to make sure, among other things, that they maintain stability and predictability, and thus enable individuals to find their way and to live well, Raz said.

The principles are not about the content of the law, but about its mode of generation and application, he said.

"It requires that legal decisions and rules be anchored in stable general legal doctrines, made for publicly available reasons, and applied faithfully observing due process," he said.

"The rule of law protects us from arbitrary use of power and similar abuse of power," Raz said. "[It] protects us from wrongs which the law's existence creates opportunities for."

Confidence that the law observes the rule of law is a condition for people to have confidence in the law and the government generally, "and thus a condition of their ability to govern well," he said.

Raz said the rule of law has "universality," uniting cultures that otherwise differ, and therefore provides a crucial framework for mutual tolerance, individually and socially, and enables worldwide cultural and economic exchanges.

He emphasized, however, the importance of adapting the rule of law to local traditions, calling it a "condition" for the rule of law to qualify as a universal moral doctrine.

Anchoring the law to local circumstances also helps refute criticism that it is a manifestation of one culture imposing its norms on others, he said.

The 79-year-old professor spent most of his career as a professor of philosophy of law at Balliol College at the University of Oxford from 1985 to 2006.

He is now the Thomas M. Macioce professor of law at Columbia University Law School in the United States and a research professor of law at King's College London in the United Kingdom. 

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)