How Peace Agreements Undermine the Rule of Law in New War Settings

This article argues that internationally endorsed peace agreements entrench the restructuring of power relations that take place in ‘new wars’. It characterizes new wars as ‘mutual enterprises’ in which networks of state and nonstate actors engage in violence for economic and/or political gain. The article shows the way in which such networks subvert efforts to implement a rule of law, primarily using the example of Bosnia. It argues that efforts to challenge such networks through transitional justice mechanisms or democratic politics face huge obstacles. It suggests that the role of the international community has been ambiguous, sometimes going with the grain of existing power relations for geo-political reasons or for stability and sometimes upholding human rights. Only where grass roots actors have directly accessed international justice mechanisms or where local activists have worked with municipalities have there been some openings. The article concludes by suggesting what a ‘new peace’ might involve.

by Professor Mary Kaldor

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