Dealing with legacies of violence: transitional justice and governance transitions

Working and discussion papers
May 2012

The politics of redress, justice and accountability feature in most post-conflict and post-repression settings. This places transitional justice firmly on the policy agenda of international support to governance transitions.

This Background Note reviews some key issues and questions to emerge from the growing literature on transitional justice. It looks at the expansion in the mandate and scope of transitional justice, the range of possible mechanisms and the political factors that influence choices and outcomes in practice.

The paper concludes by setting out some key points that international actors need to consider if they are to engage strategically with these processes.

Key messages include:

  • Where domestic political conditions are conducive to transitional justice, there are good reasons for the international community to support these processes.
  • There is a broad range of transitional justice mechanisms. Their objectives have evolved from an immediate concern with outcomes for victims to more ambitious goals related to state- and peace-building processes.
  • Transitional justice is a young field of empirical study. More is now known about the political factors that influence the possibility of transitional justice and its subsequent trajectory.
  • But little is known about both the effectiveness of international support to these processes and their impact on longer-term political and social outcomes.