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How do societies transition from mass atrocities to peace and reconciliation? Does law have a role to play in this transition?
Transitional justice practitioners and academics have argued legal/political institutions can be designed and implemented to aid in this transition, and around the world truth commissions, international criminal tribunals and administrative reparations programs have attempted to lay the foundations for a lasting peace. This subject will address the aspirations of transitional justice law and policy, both in the United Nations and other intergovernmental institutions, as well as in domestic and hybrid courts and truth commissions. This subject examines the institutional variations of these attempts, their critical assessments, and the practical challenges faced by prosecutors, judges, commissioners and administrators. It will also address the political and philosophical premises of transitional justice as a transnational endeavour, its promises and limitations, as examined by academics and practitioners.
Principal topics will include:
- The origin and histories of transitional justice as international law and policy.
- The political emotions of transitions to peace and democracy.
- International law on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
- Trials, truth commissions and other institutional experiments.
- Practical aspects of case-building and prosecution.
- Practical aspects of victim participation, reparations, memorialisation, remedies and redistribution.
Other possible topics are:
- The transformative aspirations of transitional justice law and policy
- Specific issues in the transformation of gender, racial and ethnic injustice through transitional justice
- Peacebuilding and non-repetition: guarantees of non-recurrence, accountability, vetting and institutional reform as part of transitional justice.
- Philosophical questions about the nature of truth and collective memory.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should be able to:
- Examine and explain the role and history of global law and politics as the background rules for political transitions
- Analyse and describe the relationship between international human rights law, humanitarian law, and criminal law in political transitions
- Critically evaluate approaches to transitional justice in various contexts and institutions around the world
- Apply knowledge of the different legal and policy challenges to implementing transitional law in post-conflict societies.
- Be able to critically and creatively evaluate law and policy across different international and comparative settings.
- Be able to critically analyse the theoretical and practical problems faced by legal practitioners
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex legal ideas to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences
- Engage with issues of global justice as reflected in international law and policy.
Last updated: 10 November 2023