Source: (2011) Hum Rights Rev 12:515-535

This article presents findings from a qualitative case study of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in rural Sierra Leone. It adds to the sparse literature directly evaluating local experiences of transitional justice mechanisms. It investigates the conceptual foundations of retributive and restorative approaches to postwar justice, and describes the emerging alternative argument demanding attention be paid to economic, cultural, and social rights in such transitional situations. The article describes how justice is defined in Makeni, a town in Northern Sierra Leone, and shows that the TRC’s restorative approach was unable to generate a sense of postwar justice, and was, to many, experienced as a provocation. The conclusions support an alternative distributive conception of justice and show that local conception of rights, experiences of infringement and needs for redress, demand social, cultural, and economic considerations be taken seriously in transitional justice cases.