A community recovering from war or ethnic conflict has to find ways of reweaving the fabric of economic and social life with new patterns of interaction and changed demographics.2 In post-­‐‑conflict settings customary law has a particular attraction because of the moral authority it brings to the establishment of order. Customary law is familiar, tied to the identity and history of a community, and operates independently of outside resources. Although the term evokes images of a universal acceptance and ancient origin, customary law has always been dynamic, defined by those in power, and subject to political interests.3 Informal justice systems based on customary law play two roles in post-­‐‑conflict settings by both resolving conflict and building working social networks. Here I discuss the role of customary justice systems in controlling access to land, affirming its use as a system of dispute resolution for returnees, while noting serious concerns regarding the changed nature of leadership and the inability of customary mechanisms to mediate disputes with powerful external actors.

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Copyright © 2014 Harvard Law School. This article first appeared in Harvard Human Rights Journal (2014), 1-7.

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