Transitional Justice in Postconflict Contexts: The Case of Sierra Leone’s Dual Accountability Mechanisms
Literature on in-depth studies of dual transitional justice mechanisms in postconflict settings is inadequate. This qualitative case study sought to understand the practice of dual transitional justice by examining the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Special Court engaged for transitional justice in postconflict Sierra Leone. Data consisted of documentary sources, observational field notes and 31 individual semistructured interviews with open-ended questions of Sierra Leonean public officials, United Nations officials, and TRC and Special Court officials, as well as civil society actors. Data were analyzed through detailed “description”, “categorical aggregation”, “direct interpretation”, establishment of “correspondence and patterns”, and development of “naturalistic generalizations”. It was found that because the 2 institutions were not planned and coordinated as different parts of the same tool, they were pitched against each other, undermining their respective mandates and creating tensions in their efforts to implement their plans. Also, the Sierra Leonean populace, civil society organizations, the government and the international community, including the United Nations, were divided in their opinions, sentiments and support for the 2 mechanisms. The implication of this study is that the policy choice, design and packaging of restorative and retributive mechanisms for postconflict transitional justice should not create conflict so that they can link seamlessly to the strategic goal of peace and stability. The knowledge of the dynamics of dual transitional justice is useful for governments, policy makers, the United Nations and especially the International Criminal Court whose intervention in a country may run parallel to a restorative process.