Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
Post-Conflict Justice in the Aftermath of Modern Slavery
ExpressO (2013)
  • Roy L. Brooks, University of San Diego


Modern slavery is defined as human exploitation over a period of time effectuated through coercion, fraud or trickery. An estimated 12.3 million people worldwide are held in some form of modern slavery, including forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, and sexual servitude. Children and women bear the brunt of modern slavery. Divided into three stages—trafficking, exploitation, and post-conflict—modern slavery has attracted much scholarly interest in recent years. However, relatively little scholarly attention has been given to the post-conflict stage. This article attempts to initiate such discussion by drawing upon the reparative framework crafted in the years since the Holocaust by myself and other international redress scholars. Redress scholars study post-conflict justice and human development. The reparative framework that comes out of that scholarship consists of criminal and civil redress models and their concomitant commitments to retributive, compensatory, restorative or redistributive justice in the aftermath of atrocities like the Holocaust, Apartheid, the Comfort Women, Japanese-American Internment, and, American Slavery. My ambition in this article is to extend that human-rights perspective and analysis to the post-conflict stage of modern slavery. Specifically, the article focusing on the largest and most vulnerable victim groups—children and women—in two very different and difficult contexts—the former child soldiers in African countries and sexual slavery in Thailand. With respect to the former child soldiers, the article argues that retributive justice is an unjust post-conflict resolution of the atrocities committed by these perpetrators because they are also victims. Retributive justice also collides with restorative justice, the highest development of humanity in the aftermath of an atrocity. Compensatory justice is similarly rejected on grounds that it is largely unachievable and too backward-looking to meet the forward-looking needs of the society as a whole. The article opts for restorative justice under the “atonement model” not only because the former child soldiers are both perpetrators and victims, but also because they should be reunited with their families and reintegrated into their societies. Sexual slavery in Thailand is more complex. First, the atrocity has to end. Although it might seem inconsistent with the gender-equality reparations proposed in the article (such as, victim-directed (compensatory) reparations that include educational, employment, and medical services for former sex slaves), legalizing and then regulating prostitution may be the only way to end sexual slavery in Thailand. Most particularly, regulation would remove from prostitution (certainly lessen) the opportunity for sexual exploitation. Sexual slavery and prostitution are not coterminous. Give the people something large (prostitution, which has deep cultural and religious roots in Thailand) in exchange for the elimination of a small and unsavory piece of it (sexual slavery). Although regulating rather than trying to eliminate prostitution goes against United States and international norms, it moves Thai society closer to gender equality. Once sexual slavery ends, reparations designed to promote restorative justice should be offered to the victims. These include the above-mentioned victim-directed (compensatory) reparations as well as community-directed (rehabilitative) reparations (e.g., affirmative action) that seek to prevent future sexual exploitation. In calling for restorative justice, the article rejects retributive justice under the criminal redress model on the grounds that such redress is largely unavailable due to the sheer number of low-level perpetrators and immunity that will surely be granted to governmental and other high-level perpetrators. The article also rejects compensatory justice under the “tort model” on grounds that, inter alia, litigation would put the victims through a situation of having to re-live their atrocities. By illuminating questions of post-conflict justice that might arise when scholars begin to turn their attention in earnest to the aftermath of modern slavery, the article seeks not only to improve our understanding of this little-discussed stage of the atrocity, but also to add much-needed intellectual heft to our analysis of the end stage of modern slavery. Accordingly, the article’s most important objective is to further our thinking about human development in the aftermath of this ongoing atrocity by imbibing a post-Holocaust spirit of heightened morality, egalitarianism, identity, and restorative justice.

  • modern slavery,
  • human rights,
  • transitional justice,
  • retributive justice,
  • restorative justice,
  • post-Holocaust,
  • debt bondage
Publication Date
July 11, 2013
Citation Information
Roy L. Brooks. "Post-Conflict Justice in the Aftermath of Modern Slavery" ExpressO (2013)
Available at: