Transitional justice

There is wide recognition that transitional justice is a vital component of any successful political transition (i.e. democratisation) and/or process of post-conflict recovery. However, transitional justice is also a relatively new and highly complex area of work, and demands for UN support tends to far outstrip the supply of expertise. This has led to a certain degree of confusion and apprehension among States and senior UN officials: when and how should transitional justice mechanisms be put in place, what are the best models to follow (e.g. South Africa, Colombia?), might a transitional justice process put a country’s emergence from conflict or autocracy at risk, and how to integrate such a process into a wider programme of UN support covering development, rights, gender and security?

This project, to be conducted with the former UN Special Rapporteur on transitional justice, Pablo de Greiff, will aim to cut through the confusion – even myth – surrounding transitional justice, by analysing, in a very practical way, the evolution of the concept and its application across a range of country settings. What has worked in certain situations and why? What didn’t work and why, and what were the consequences for the State in question and its people? What can we learn from these experiences? In addition to this practical analysis and comparative critique of various transitional justice case studies, the project will also seek to identify the main obstacles to the wider roll-out of transitional justice programmes, will look at the role of such programmes in the context of the Secretary-General’s ‘prevention agenda’ (especially in the context of peacebuilding and non-recurrence), and will look at how the UPR process can be used to systematically follow-up with relevant States on their national transitional justice processes.

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