At last, the long war against Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters has been brought to a responsible end. A short time ago, just a small band of brave witches and wizards at Hogwarts School stood between the dark forces and their ascension to power. Now their evil leader is dead, his armies are scattered, and the wizarding world can begin to recover from the terror they inflicted.
At such a moment of deliverance, it is natural to feel elation and closure -- to allow ourselves the brief comfort of imagining that the drama, so meticulously documented by J.K. Rowling, is over. But if history teaches us anything (consider the bitter legacy still lingering from the 17th-century Goblin Wars or the recent experience of American Muggles in Iraq and Afghanistan), it is that the defeat of Voldemort by Harry Potter may have been the easy part. Indeed, one might even say it was child's play. The hard work of postwar stabilization still lies ahead.
Former U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre and retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan have described four pillars of post-conflict reconstruction: security, governance and participation, urgent social and economic needs, and justice and reconciliation. Of these pillars, the magical world can currently afford to feel complacent about only one -- social and economic needs. After all, with the proper application of scouring, mending, and engorgement charms, much of the physical damage wrought by the war can be repaired, and food can be multiplied to meet the needs of the population. But with respect to the other imperatives, critical challenges remain.
Surviving Death Eaters will have to be brought to justice or reintegrated into magical society. Long-standing rifts among magical communities that the war widened must be healed. Most of all, we must ensure that the values that triumphed in the final battle -- tolerance, pluralism, and respect for the dignity of all magical and non-magical creatures alike -- are reflected in the institutions and arrangements that emerge from the conflict. What ultimately matters is not just whether something evil was defeated, but whether something good is built in its place.
As experts on human rights, civilian protection, and national security, we were recently asked by officials in the British Ministry of Magic to suggest lessons from the Muggle world that might apply to challenges facing post-Voldemort magical society. Our recommendations are summarized below.
Transitional Justice and Reconciliation
Thousands of Death Eaters fought with or provided material support to Voldemort, including prominent members of key magical institutions. It will be impossible to move forward unless we come to terms with the abuses they committed and meet legitimate demands for redress. In the magical world, after all, the ghosts of the past can literally haunt future generations.
Members of Voldemort's inner circle and others guilty of the worst crimes -- the unforgivable curses of killing ("Avada Kedavra"), torture ("Crucio"), and mind control ("Imperio") -- should be prosecuted before a court of law. We should reject calls by Order of the Phoenix hard-liners like Joe Lieberbottom, John "Mad Eye" McCain, and Lindsey Gramger to instead detain them without charge as "unlawful enemy spell-casters" for as long as the "war" against dark magic continues (though all three men deserve our thanks for their early warnings about the Dark Lord's return).
A more difficult dilemma arises with respect to the thousands of other wizards and witches who aided the Dark Lord's cause in less obvious ways. We cannot sweep their complicity under an invisibility cloak. At the same time, it would be impractical and unwise to prosecute all of them. For every wizard who willingly committed crimes for the Death Eaters, another was blackmailed, threatened, or coerced while under the Imperius Curse. Some actively participated in hostilities against other wizards and Muggles; others merely provided financing or shelter. A campaign to punish everyone would get out of hand, creating a climate of suspicion and score-settling in which innocents are snared. The last thing the wizarding world needs is a witch hunt.
A legitimate process must hold the victors to account as well. Remember, under the ruthless Barty Crouch, the Ministry of Magic's Department of Magical Law Enforcement was itself formally authorized to use unforgivable curses, including torture, against suspected Death Eaters, and innocent suspects were imprisoned after what were essentially show trials. When the ministry came under Voldemort's sway, how many of its employees went along with the abuses it committed? What about the controversial decisions made by those who are widely seen as heroes, like Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore -- for, say, his use of child soldiers? What of Harry Potter himself, who once used the torture curse?
One way to address these challenges would be to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission modeled on the experience of Muggle South Africa. Rank-and-file Death Eaters and collaborators -- as well as those who fought against them -- would be given the opportunity to testify about their actions and be forgiven for those less serious offenses to which they fully and honestly confessed. Such a process would not only be cathartic, but would also help establish a more accurate and complete version of these traumatic events and could, in turn, become part of Hogwarts's curriculum. It would be important to ensure, however, that those who testify to such a commission tell the truth voluntarily, and not under the influence of Veritaserum.
Victims should also have their day in court. The Ministry of Magic should provide amends, in the form of gold or perhaps a bottle of Felix Felicis, to all those civilian wizards and witches harmed by either side during the war. Meanwhile, a property claims commission should be established to gather unlawfully amassed assets and return them to their rightful owners. The goblins in charge of Gringotts Bank should be required to question and report suspiciously large deposits of gold, especially by Politically Exposed Wizards. Some seized assets should be used to help wounded and cursed warriors and loved ones of the fallen, like the Weasley family. This year's Quidditch World Cup should be dedicated to their memory; it will be a chance to heal.
Finally, true reconciliation in the magical world must involve its nonhuman inhabitants as well. For complicated historical reasons, some magical creatures such as giants, trolls, and spiders fought alongside the Death Eaters during the final battle at Hogwarts. Given the anger felt by the wizarding community toward those who aided Voldemort, some might try to inflict collective punishment on these beings, as well as on those, like centaurs and merpeople, whose loyalties were uncertain or who remained neutral in the face of mass atrocities. In the short term, the International Confederation of Wizards (a consortium of magical lands, often meeting by a river in New York) should deploy a mission of peacekeeping Aurors with a mandate to protect vulnerable communities of magical creatures from revenge attacks. In the longer term, the International Confederation of Wizards should initiate a multi-stakeholder dialogue with these creatures and negotiate a compact that addresses the long-standing grievances that led them, tragically, to side with the Dark Lord.