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The effects of transitional justice mechanisms. A summary of empirical research findings and implications for analysts and practitioners.

Thoms, Oskar N.T.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Centre for International Policy Studies. Univesity of Ottawa.

The last two decades have witnessed a remarkable proliferation of “transitional justice” (TJ) processes in post-conflict and post-authoritarian societies. TJ mechanisms include trials and other judicial proceedings against individuals alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights; truth commissions designed to establish a factual historical record of past wrongdoing; reparations to victims of past abuses; and vetting of individuals to determine if their past activities or affiliations render them ineligible for public office, law enforcement or other key roles. There is also a mounting debate over the desirability and effectiveness of TJ as a means of consolidating peace, promoting human rights and democracy, and healing the effects of past wrongs. TJ proponents, on the one hand, argue that some form of transitional justice is beneficial for a transitioning society’s emergence from war or authoritarianism. TJ sceptics, by contrast, argue that the pursuit of TJ can itself undermine prospects for peace or negotiated transitions from authoritarianism. These debates are now particularly contentious with regard to Afghanistan, Northern Uganda, and East Timor. At the core of these debates lies a series of claims and counter-claims about the causal effects of transitional justice mechanisms. Does TJ strengthen or threaten peace in transitional societies? Does it lead to greater or less respect for human rights and the rule of law? Does it foster reconciliation or exacerbate divisions? We believe that it is essential for local and international policymakers to engage these questions with systematically collected and analyzed evidence. (excerpt)


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