Fambul Tok: The Movie

My last post on  Sierre Leone’s NGO Fambul Tok was based on my viewing several weeks ago of the 2011 film of the same name, directed by Sara Terry and co-produced by Libby Hoffman, which I highly recommend for anyone interested in questions of crime, punishment, and justice.  In brief, it concerns the NGO’s work in Sierra Leone’s communities with reconciling victims and perpetrators of the country’s civil war, which lasted from 1991-2002. It begins at a bonfire in a small village with a rape victim confronting and eventually forgiving the rapist, her uncle. In another village, former best friends are reconciled; one, as an impressed child soldier for the rebels, had killed the other’s father. A sister of a notorious rebel leader, who remains missing, begs and receives forgiveness on her brother’s behalf from the cousins and neighbors whose families he had brutalized by torture, rape and murder.

As the film explains through its central spokesperson John Caulker, Fambul Tok was developed as an alternative to the post-war commissions that had, until the film was released, prosecuted only a handful of war criminals, none of them of top rank. The cost to the nation of that nearly decade-long Western-style process was in the tens of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Fambul Tok’s brand of justice had cost about $US 1 million  since it was founded in 2007 until the film’s release last year and had reconciled hundreds of former antagonists. Continue reading

A Radical Approach to Justice: Fambul Tok

As I was saying yesterday, we Americans carry with us a pretty basic understanding of how “justice” is officially carried out in our names, and we “law-abiding” ones don’t usually give it much thought other than to see it as a deterrent to any “criminal” urges we or our fellow citizens might have. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, if it really does deter people from injuring others in some way. I think most would agree that when a person is violent or injurious to other people, we want that person’s liberty restrained so that they aren’t able to cause harm anymore. The question becomes, however, how long should their liberty be taken from them? And beyond that, who is responsible for dispensing this justice and why them? (And, furthermore, who guards the guards?) Continue reading