Conflict Regulation in Germany’s Plural Society
Study on so-called Paralleljustiz in Criminal Law in North Rhine-Westphalia
In the last few years, the informal resolution of disputes within minority groups in Germany has been increasingly criticized and referred to as Paralleljustiz (parallel justice) with a clearly negative connotation. These kinds of alternative mechanisms are often accused of obstructing access to formal justice and of threatening the rule of law. Relying on the theories of normative plurality and the concept of semi-autonomous social fields, the project “Conflict Regulation in Germany’s Plural Society” aims at investigating extrajudicial dispute resolution mechanisms among a number of minority groups (defined ethnically, culturally, and religiously) living in Germany. In the framework of this larger project, the present “Study on so-called Paralleljustiz in Criminal Law in North Rhine-Westphalia” analyzes the way in which German institutional actors (in particular judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement agents) cope with the existence of these alternative mechanisms. The research questions are divided into three main clusters. The first looks at difficulties encountered by these actors when facing alternative mechanisms that overlap (or interfere) with a criminal trial and at possible solutions at their disposal. The second looks at the relationship between alternative mechanisms and the rule of law, especially with regard to the respect of individual rights and the State’s monopoly on the use of force. Finally, the third looks at the definition of Paralleljustiz and aims at substantiating it with the help of perspectives gained from the aforementioned institutional actors. The study focuses mainly on North Rhine-Westphalia and employs qualitative research methods (surveys, analysis of prosecutors’ files, and interviews).
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