Transitional Justice

Transitional justice entails a range of approaches, both judicial and non-judicial, that states and societies emerging from repressive rule or violent conflict may adopt to address past human rights abuses/violations with the aim of fostering sustainable peace and democratic governance. In the last two decades, the unprecedented increase in transitional justice processes around the world has contributed to place them at the centre of the peacebuilding agenda.
The universe of transitional justice can be broadly or narrowly defined. At its broadest, it involves anything that a society devises to deal with a legacy of conflict and/or widespread human rights violations. In other words, it may include all dimensions of the justice and rule of law agenda, as well as security sector reforms and some dimensions of the psycho-social recovery agenda (with respect to memory and history work, reconciliation processes and trauma, for instance). On this portal, the transitional justice subsection focuses on the narrower definition of the field, centered on the two central aspects of truth and justice and focused on a set of approaches, including (1) criminal prosecutions, (2) truth commissions, (3) reparations, (4) institutional reform, especially vetting, and (5) amnesties. This separation is mainly due to space and length constraints. However, the subsection highlights the multiple links with other dimensions of peacebuilding that are closely related to transitional justice and addressed in other subsections of this portal (visitors can easily navigate between them). It also reflects on the multiple facets of the increasing complex role of transitional justice in the broader purposes of promoting and maintaining peace.
The writing first addresses the definitions of the field of transitional justice, of key terms referring to the different mechanisms that comprise it as well as other terms frequently used. It also addresses three main conceptual discussions related to:  the two core notions of "transition" and "justice"; the scope of transitional justice; as well as the two dominant overarching terms: "transitional justice" vs. "post-conflict justice." A brief history of transitional justice as a field of inquiry and practice (and its articulation as such) is also provided, ending with the current third wave or "global phase of transitional justice."
There is a general consensus among scholars and practitioners that addressing the legacies of past violence and human rights abuse is necessary for fostering sustainable peace.  Transitional justice is generally thought to help prevent recurrence of violent conflict and foster sustainable peace by: establishing an historical record and countering denial; ensuring accountability and ending impunity; fostering reconciliation and socio-political reconstruction.
These functions are based on a number of key mechanisms which are detailed: criminal prosecutions, amnesties, truth commissions, reparation programs, and vetting processes. They are complemented by supporting activities that are conducted by different actors in the field. The writing proceeds by introducing the main actors (both insiders and outsiders) engaged in these processes and some of the issues created by their interaction.  
As a dynamic and rapidly expanding field, transitional justice is the subject of many debates. Strong normative commitments and ideals of justice do not always coincide with the imperatives of peacebuilding and face practical constraints at the implementation stage. Six main dimensions of the ongoing discussions in the field are addressed: the extent to which transitional justice in general and its mechanisms in particular actually contribute to peacebuilding, as well as the management of the tensions between the two;  the persistent gap knowledge in the field, in particular in terms of empirical analysis and impact assessment; the possible convergences and divergences between global and local approaches (in particular in terms of norms, priorities and needs); the question of compatibility, complementarity and sequencing between different transitional justice mechanisms; the need to actually engender the field of transitional justice; the situation of former child soldiers and childrens involvement in conflict and transitional justice mechanisms.

The news, reports, and analyses herein are selected due to there relevance to issues of peacebuilding, or their significance to policymakers and practitioners. The content prepared by HPCR International is meant to summarize main points of the current debates and does not necessarily reflect the views of HPCR International or the Program of Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. In addition, HPCR International and contributing partners are not responsible for the content of external publications and internet sites linked to this portal.