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Unit information: Transitional Justice in the Aftermath of Conflict in 2020/21

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Unit name Transitional Justice in the Aftermath of Conflict
Unit code POLIM0049
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Roddy Brett
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


In the aftermath of internal armed conflict, genocide, mass atrocity and civil war, societies and states seek to rebuild, and in so doing, to address and redress both the causes and consequences of protracted political violence and mass atrocity. Within this context, the emerging practice and discourse of transitional justice (TJ) and the newly enshrined rights of victims (to justice, truth, reparations and non-repetition), components that had been recently consecrated within international law and peacebuilding practices, have become key instruments. The wielding of transitional justice mechanisms (TJMs) seeks to guarantee the restitution of individual and collective dimensions of victims’ rights and represents a crucial weapon for victims of political violence, as well as a key instrument for states seeking to move forward from their dark and violent pasts. Globally, TJMs now assume a central role in the context of transition from violent and protracted armed conflict, as societies and states seek to re-establish effective rule of law, address gross and often systematic human rights violations and work towards sustainable peace and development. TJ processes instigated by the respective state, often with the support of the international community, emerged as a key priority for states undergoing transition from authoritarian rule, negotiating peace or implementing settlements in the wake of armed conflict. TJ practices have come to represent one of the cornerstones of the Liberal Peace - programmes and interventions that seek to guarantee victims’ rights are increasingly becoming a standard(-ised) component of the postviolence/post-conflict repertoire framed through the Liberal Peace. There has been a growing critique of TJ as reflecting the power relations and structures as Liberal Peace thinking and practice, leading some scholars to argue for a necessary and urgent reform and rethinking of TJ practices. In this context, new practices and thinking are emerging that challenge the conventional paradigm of TJ. This unit addresses the emergence and evolution of TJ thinking and practice critically engaging with the core theoretical scholarship and key case studies.

The unit aims to:

  • Critically engage with the TJ literature through rigorous theoretical and empirical perspectives from key relevant case studies
  • Understand the objectives of TJ and their limits and scope
  • Develop comparative thinking relating to distinct empirical case studies
  • Comprehend the meaning and significance of TJ for peacebuilding and conflict transformation processes

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. Critically engage with and evidence rigorous understanding of the theoretical frameworks and practices of the TJ paradigm, conflict transformation.
  2. Demonstrate understanding of the core challenges states and societies face in the aftermath of mass atrocities, and the processes and mechanisms that may be adopted in the attempt to overcome said challenges.
  3. Demonstrate understanding of the role of international and national actors (state and non-state) in the practice of TJ.
  4. Critically engage with the arguments relating to the possible impact of TJMs on transitioning states.
  5. Demonstrate understanding of and critically engage with diverse scholarship relating to TJ and reconciliation.
  6. Achieve an in-depth and rigorous understanding of the case studies and how they might contribute to theoretical thinking.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

Two pieces of summative assessment for this unit

- 25% 1,000 word essay - 75% 3,000 word essay

All assessments test all ILOs.

Reading and References

  • García-Godos, J., C. Lekha Sriram and O. Martin-Ortega (2013) Transitional Justice and Peacebuilding. Victims and Ex-Combatants. Routledge.
  • William, M., Nagy, R. and Elster, J.(eds) (2012) Transitional Justice. Nomos vol. L, NYU Press.
  • Olsen, T., L. Payine and A. Reiter (2010) Transitional Justice in Balance: Comparing Processes, Weighing Efficacy. Washington DC: USIP Books.
  • Roht-Arriaza, N. and J. Mariezcurrena (2006) Transitional Justice in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Teitel, R. (200) Transitional Justice. Oxford: OUP.
  • R. Shaw, L. Waldorf and P. Hazan (2010) Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities After Mass Violence. Stanford University Press.