Voldemort's dead, but the struggle's not over. How Harry Potter and the magical world of J.K. Rowling might begin the long process of reconciliation and reform.
- By Tom MalinowskiTom Malinowski was assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor from 2014 to 2017. He previously served as Washington director for Human Rights Watch, as a senior director on the National Security Council staff, as President Bill Clinton’s chief foreign policy speechwriter, and as a speechwriter and member of the policy planning Staff at the State Department under Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher., Sarah Holewinski, Tammy Schultz
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.
In their aptly named essay, "Dealing with Demons," Michèle Flournoy and Michael Pan argue that the reconciliation pillar of post-conflict reconstruction requires more than just dealing with past abuses and grievances. It also calls for "(1) law enforcement instruments that are effective and respectful of human rights; (2) an impartial, open, and accountable judicial system; (3) a fair constitution and body of law; (4) mechanisms for monitoring and upholding human rights; [and] (5) a humane corrections system." The wizarding world will need to implement fundamental reforms in each of these areas.
Members of the anti-Voldemort Order of the Phoenix will presumably form the core of a transitional governing authority, which would then organize elections for a permanent government. As democratic forces in Muggle Egypt and Libya have recently discovered, the legitimacy of post-revolutionary but pre-election transitional governments can be tenuous. This problem could be minimized in the magical world by having the Hogwarts Sorting Hat assign ministerial positions in the transitional authority.
The new government should rapidly draw up and submit to a referendum a new legal framework establishing checks and balances on its powers, as well as a Charter on the Rights of Witches and Wizards. We would also recommend that the Wizengamot, the high council of Magical Great Britain, be split into separate legislative and judicial bodies. The wizards who conjure the laws should not be the ones who interpret them.
The use of any form of torture should be banned, whether by the infamous Cruciatus Curse or methods euphemistically known as "enhanced hexation." We welcome J.K. Rowling’s report that soul-sucking dementors will be banished from the prison at Azkaban, but we do not think this measure goes far enough. The next Minister of Magic should close Azkaban on day one of his administration. It is a symbol of abuse and a recruiting tool for future Death Eaters. (We recognize the practical difficulties in closing Azkaban so quickly, but believe that the prisoners could initially be moved to penal facilities in enchanted caves or castles as secure as Azkaban, but without the baggage. A judicial panel could then review each prisoner’s case to determine whether he should be given a new trial, transferred to another magical state, or allowed to disapparate. As U.S. President Barack Obama will surely confirm when his magical counterpart next drops into the Oval Office, delay could be fatal. All it will take is one more attempted Death Eater attack and scaremongers in the Wizengamot will start calling for the return of dementors, making the closure of Azkaban politically impossible.)
In parallel, legitimate law enforcement measures should be stepped up. Merchants should be required to report bulk sales of magical supplies that could be combined for dark purposes. Lawful surveillance of dark alleys and curse-tracing spells on wands should be permitted, with a judicial warrant. Full body and Polyjuice Potion scanners should also be installed for international travelers across the Floo Network.
One of the great weaknesses of magical institutions is that they function top down, with little input from ordinary wizards and witches. And yet the war against Voldemort was won almost entirely bottom up, by grassroots organizations such as Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix. The legal and political reforms we advocate depend on the growth of civil society (we assume a charm can be developed to make magical civil society especially vibrant).
Another urgent priority should be media diversification. A single wizarding newspaper — the Daily Prophet — cannot maintain its independence and hold government officials accountable when it has no competition (especially given the rumor, first published in the tabloid the Quibbler, that the Prophet may soon be bought by dark wizard Rupert Murdoch). New media should also be promoted in the magical world. Right now, for example, wizards and witches stay in touch by sending letters of any length by the slow, reliable method of owl post. A new system could be developed employing faster, lighter sparrows, which could distribute shorter messages — say under 140 characters — to larger numbers of people.
Finally, the Ministry of Magic must become more transparent to the public and press. Fewer documents should be protected by the Fidelius Charm, and the budget of the Department of Mysteries should be declassified. Too much secrecy will only invite more WizenLeaks scandals.
International Magical Security
The great question remaining now is whether Voldemort’s death means that the threat posed by dark magic has passed. Some might be tempted to believe so. After all, for ages many witches and wizards have let themselves believe that if they ignore the phenomenon entirely, if they lock it in the restricted section of the library or refrain from uttering the names of dark wizards, it will somehow go away. But as renowned defense-against-the-dark-arts expert Marc Sageman argued in his incisive book, Leaderless Maleficium, most dark wizards, while originally inspired by Voldemort, have over time transitioned to membership in an amorphous "social movement" organized into small cells and networked through Legilimency, a system likely to survive the demise of its leader and of "Death Eater Central." This view may be exaggerated (see Bruce Hoffman’s response to Sageman, "The Myth of Grass-Roots Dark Magic"). But it would be unrealistic to assume that Voldemort’s death will mark the end of magical extremism or that no other leader will emerge to unite his followers. For one thing, the House of Slytherin still remains.
The overall reform of states that already have strong institutions, such as Magical Great Britain, would help prevent the resurgence of new security threats and enshrine the values for which Voldemort’s opponents fought. Resuming international events like the Triwizard Tournament could help spread those values and forge bonds among the established states. But none of this will suffice so long as dark wizards can find refuge in failed magical states where lawlessness reigns, as Voldemort did in Albania for over a dozen years. Far deeper international magical cooperation will be needed to deal with these ungoverned spaces.
For a start, new standards must be agreed upon. We suggest that the International Confederation of Wizards negotiate a Comprehensive Curse Ban Treaty, forbidding use or testing of certain forms of dark magic anywhere on the planet. The treaty should be enforced by deploying a ground-based network of sensors, or Sneakoscopes, throughout the world to detect unlawful spells.
Each sovereign magical state should be seen as having a responsibility to protect its citizens from dark magic. But if they fail to meet their responsibility, it should be the duty of the international magical community to step in. And when that community does act to pacify an unstable area, it should not try to do so on the cheap, by targeting dark wizards (or unruly trolls, giants, or dragons) with stunning spells deployed from unmanned aerial brooms. Stabilization Aurors will need to deploy to these places, employing a "clear, hold, and conjure" strategy designed to win hearts, minds, and souls.
We trust that these preliminary recommendations will be helpful to all magical persons as they recover from their recent conflict. If we have been of service to the community of witches and wizards, we humbly hope they might render us Muggles a service or two in return. For starters, we would very much appreciate it if they could lift the Petrificus Totalus curse someone has clearly placed on the U.S. Congress.