In a new volume, “Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies” from the United States Institute of Peace, editor Deborah Isser argues that measuring customary justice systems against Western rule-of-law templates leads to strategies that fail to address the concerns of the population and impedes access to justice.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Meg Pierannunzi, 202-429-4736
              Allison Sturma, 202-429-4725

(Washington)– In a new volume, “Customary Justice and the Rule of Law in War-Torn Societies” from the United States Institute of Peace, editor Deborah Isser argues that measuring customary justice systems against Western rule-of-law templates leads to strategies that fail to address the concerns of the population and impedes access to justice.

“Customary justice systems are generally seen as either a side issue on the margins of the justice sector or a troublesome obstacle to the rule of law. The chapters in this volume serve as a sober rebuttal to this view,” said Isser. “The case studies demonstrate that customary justice systems must be treated as an enduring and influential component of the justice landscape as a whole and that policymakers and practitioners who ignore or seek to undermine them are doomed to fail.”

Moving beyond the narrow lens of legal analysis, the seven cases in the volume—Mozambique, Guatemala, East Timor, Afghanistan, Liberia, Iraq, Sudan—incorporate a nuanced analysis of the social, cultural, historical, and institutional context of the justice system as a whole.

Written by experts, the case studies provide advice on how to engage with customary law and suggest concrete ways policymakers can bridge the divide between formal and customary systems in both the short and long term. The recommendations stress the importance of focusing on practical solutions to real and current problems as determined by the population, rather than on pushing for a predetermined end state. The contributors suggest ways to support a constructive and inclusive process through which constituents can create a form of legal pluralism that will best reflect the needs and aspirations of society as a whole.

In conflict-affected communities scarred by legacies of violence, customary justice systems often offer locally legitimate processes for dispute resolution that have a proven capacity to peacefully resolve grievances within the community and prevent the escalation of acute political violence.  The book offers valuable insights for practitioners and policymakers approaching justice and the rule of law in countries like Yemen and Libya that are experiencing political upheaval. The book provides tools so that future engagements do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Related News

'Peace Teachers' Program Spreads to Four New States

'Peace Teachers' Program Spreads to Four New States

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

News Type: Press Release

At a time when violent international conflict is spawning humanitarian crises around the world, four high school teachers in Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Florida have been selected to take part in a U.S. Institute of Peace program to help their students gain the knowledge, skills and perspectives they need to work toward a more peaceful world.

Education & Training

Diane Zeleny Named USIP’s Vice President for External Relations

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

News Type: Press Release

(Washington) – The U.S. Institute of Peace has named communications and foreign policy professional Diane Zeleny as its vice president for external relations. Zeleny will lead the institute’s outreach and public communications strategy, and will oversee its public affairs, public education, congressional relations and institutional development efforts.

Tunisian Leader Outlines Anti-Terrorism, Corruption Steps

Tunisian Leader Outlines Anti-Terrorism, Corruption Steps

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

News Type: Press Release

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed outlined the country’s efforts to improve security, reduce extremism, curb corruption and jump-start the economy, in a meeting with a group of current and former top U.S. officials and other experts at the U.S. Institute of Peace on July 11.

USIP Honors Army 10th Mtn. Division Unit for Iraq Peacemaking

USIP Honors Army 10th Mtn. Division Unit for Iraq Peacemaking

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

News Type: Press Release

The U.S. Institute of Peace today honored soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division for their role in achieving a local peace accord in Iraq that offers a model for potential peacemaking and stabilization in the aftermath of ISIS. The peace agreement, in 2007, halted communal fighting in the region of Mahmoudiya, in an area that had been known as the “Triangle of Death.” The accord continues to underpin the relative stability of that area a decade later.

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi: Trump Is Supporting Us

Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi: Trump Is Supporting Us

Monday, March 20, 2017

News Type: Press Release

Washington, D.C. – President Trump has assured Iraq’s government of greater U.S. support as it confronts ISIS and stabilizes the country, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said today. “We have been given assurances that the support will not only continue but will accelerate,” al-Abadi said at the U.S. Institute of Peace immediately after meeting President Trump at the White House.

Violent Extremism; Democracy & Governance

View All News