Volume 29, Issue 1, 2019
Joshua R. Snyder
Should Transitional Justice Promote Forgiveness?
Insights from Guatemala’s Recovery of Historical Memory Project
Over the past thirty years, transitional justice scholars have grappled with whether, and to what extent, post-conflict societies should foster forgiveness. In response to this question, this article argues that forgiveness is a legitimate goal of transitional justice, but that interpersonal forgiveness cannot be mandated by the government. It will look to the example of Guatemala to demonstrate how the recovery of narrative truth through individual and communal acts of remembrance enabled forgiveness while at the same time affirmed the need for justice. The article proceeds in two parts. First, it explores the praxis of forgiveness and the role of narrative truth and the healing of memory as constitutive elements of forgiveness. Second, it argues that Guatemala’s Recovery of Historical Memory Project (REMHI) is an illustration of this praxis. Finally, this article argues against conceptions of forgiveness that promote forgetting the past and forgoing justice.