During the latter half of the twentieth century, there were 251 internal and international conflicts, which left 70 – 170 million causalities behind. In response, a number of justice mechanisms were developed to help post-conflict societies deal transition to peace and democracy. Criminal trials were held in Nuremberg, Argentina, the Balkans and Rwanda, while truth commissions were established in Chile, El Salvador, and South Africa. Reparations, lustrations, pardons, amnesties and civil litigation were at times also part of the transitional justice project.
While the Arab Spring has in many regards proven to be a successful, transnational revolution, its long – term success will largely depend on the measures used to assist transitional societies both in overcoming past atrocities and creating milestones for a better future. While success remains largely contingent on the context and dynamics of each conflict and society, it is imperative that decision makers understand the available mechanisms.
Transitional justice involves a variety of different actors, including but not limited to victims, perpetrators, the state, the international community and, at times, Multi National Entities (MNEs), and encompasses several different types of measures, including individual criminal responsibility, truth and reconciliation commissions, lustrations, and amnesties, among others. The goals of transitional justice measures often include truth, justice, and reconciliation – whether mutually or exclusively sought.
Given the diversity of actors and goals, post-conflict societies often must adopt a combination of different transitional justice mechanisms in order to successfully transition to a better future.