Martha Minow, Historical Justice, in 2 A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy 621 (Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit & Thomas W. Pogge eds., 2d ed. 2007).
Abstract: Should people make demands for justice relating to events occurring in the past, even the distant past? What does and what should happen when they do? These questions frame the problems of historical justice that became especially palpable during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and contributed to innovations in the design and use of tribunals, truth commissions and reparations initiatives. These responses to calls for historical justice deal with objections and difficulties in their own ways. Objections to such innovations include charges that they depart too radically from established legal forms, that they reopen old wounds, that they inevitably rely on stale and partial evidence, that their costs are excessive or divert resources from more pressing needs, and that they do little to prevent future atrocities or to heal social rifts. Prominent examples of institutions addressing historical justice include the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, trying major war criminals in Germany after the Second World War, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, following the end of apartheid, and the Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act 1995 in New Zealand, responding to the 1863 government invasion of land held by the Waikato-Tainui people and the subsequent confiscation of 1.2 million acres of the tribe’s land with financial compensation, return of the land and an apology. These and other examples in turn inspire new claims for similar responses in other circumstances and stimulate further objections, continuing institutional innovations and debates in political and legal contexts.