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Waiting for Accountability by RJI President Lisa Rea (June 2024)

Waiting for Accountability

by Lisa M. Rea, President, Restorative Justice International (RJI)

Since the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Restorative Justice International (RJI) has taken a strong position globally condemning the attack on democracy and calling for accountability. On January 15th RJI held a public video meeting of our Global Advisory Council where we discussed the attack from a global perspective, and considered how restorative justice could be applied after the violent insurrection.

But today in the summer of 2024 we are still waiting for accountability.

Though former President Trump has been convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up the payment of hush money to a porn star during his 2016 bid for the presidency, a violation of New York election law, he has yet to stand trial for his direct involvement in the January 6th insurrection. Where is accountability?

I am an expert in the field of restorative justice with thirty years’ experience on the state, national and international levels. I have learned that restorative justice applies not only to harm and violence between individuals, crime victims and offenders, in the micro but it can and should apply to conflict, violence, and harm in the macro. The case for its use can be made because restorative justice is a set of principles that stresses offender accountability, making things right with the victim, or victims, and to communities also injured. Restorative justice can be used in all settings including conflicts or wars between nations. In the same way, restorative justice can be applied to violent insurrections that occur in any country when a perpetrator, or perpetrators, is identified.

With the application of restorative justice, it is critical for those victimized, and injured, to hear the truth. If the truth cannot be found often restorative justice cannot be fully realized. Healing, on some level, cannot be achieved without the truth. Offenders who are responsible for the harm or violence must take responsibility for their actions—as directly as possible. Often an offender’s expression of remorse reveals the truth that victims, and communities, seek.

Many today speak of America’s need to heal after the January 6th insurrection. But healing corporately as a nation cannot occur until all the offenders take full responsibility. In this case the former president himself must take responsibility because it was his words which opened the door for the violence the nation and the world witnessed. His actions since January 6th have shown that he takes no responsibility, and in fact he has stated he would pardon most, if not all, of those who have already been found guilty of participating in the January 6th insurrection.

It was once suggested to me by a colleague in Australia that creating a truth and reconciliation commission might be appropriate for the United States given the insurrection attack and the damage done to the country’s democracy. However, the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission, like one used in South Africa, would not be possible until the primary culprit tells the truth.

We will wait to see what the U.S. Supreme Court does related to former president’s case regarding the critical question of presidential immunity. We also will wait to learn of Mr. Trump’s sentence on July 11 for his felony convictions. Nevertheless, the former president must face his responsibility for the insurrection on January 6.

Restorative Justice International will be holding another public meeting of our Global Advisory Council in August to discuss former President Trump’s case, and his Republican candidacy, yet again, for the presidency. We will also discuss the rise of the far right globally with approximately 20 countries having elected, or previously elected, leaders representing these dangerous views. In these countries either leaders have been elected or there are nationalistic, far right parties in place and growing.

RJI will stress once again the importance of restorative justice in responding to leaders who seek to undermine democracies and increase the likelihood of violence in communities. The RJI video of our Global Advisory Council will be made public once published.


UPDATE: Since the writing of this story two news events have occurred. The sentencing of the former president has been postponed until September 18th. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on president immunity (July 1). See that news item here:

(July 10, 2024)

Reprinted with Permission from RJI

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