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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Transitional Justice in Context (PGSP11383)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course has three aims: (1) to provide students with a critical understanding of key theoretical, conceptual and policy debates related to transitional justice, (2) to examine how these debates shape developmental and humanitarian interventions, and (3) to discuss the actual functioning of these institutions in their socio-cultural and political context. The course adopts an inter-disciplinary perspective drawing on legal studies, political science, social and cultural anthropology and African Studies. Teaching will make use of case studies of transitional justice in Latin America, South Africa, West Africa, Uganda and Rwanda.
Course description Course overview:

Week 1: The history of transitional justice
How should we deal with the abuses and atrocities of past regimes? Should we seek to hold people to account or forgive in the name of reconciliation? What is the relationship between truth and justice? In the last thirty years a specific set of institutions have become associated with what has become known as 'transitional justice', with truth and reconciliation commissions and criminal tribunals at the fore. This lecture presents an overview over the history of transitional justice and the problem of effecting a new beginning eschewing violence.

Week 2: The key debates: The truth v. justice debate and the peace v. justice debate
Two important debates have been the truth versus justice debate, whether truth commissions or criminal trials are the best means to realize closure and reconciliation, and the peace versus justice debate, whether criminal trial jeopardize the fragile peace and negotiations during a transition period.

Week 3: Truth-telling and national reconciliation
Truth commissions have been established to serve as alternative, quasi-juridical alternatives to amnesty for perpetrators of crimes, on the one hand, and criminal trials, on the other hand. The have the task to establish accountability and national reconciliation by producing an authoritative historical record of crimes and human rights violations. This week examines the model and its dissemination, the ideas that have been driving the set-up, mandate and work of transitional justice institutions in general.

Week 4: International criminal justice
Since the late twentieth century there has a been a growing sense that some crimes are so heinous that the international community has a responsibility to prosecute those responsible no matter where the crimes took place. However, is there a trend to depict the accused as absolute evil and reproduce national or ethnic stereotypes? Furthermore, is the law a blunt tool though which to understand the complexity of political violence? What is the interplay between the tribunals┐ internal dynamics and international politics?

Week 5: Localizing transitional justice
International criminal justice is often seen as aloof and far removed from local concerns and concepts of justice. In response, there have been calls to strengthen African community-based institutions to deal with the perpetrators of violence. But are these neo-traditional and localized forms of transitional justice really better suited to deal with human rights violations and war crimes? Are they really manifestations of African justice or rather inventions of well-meaning Western NGOs? These and other general questions surrounding attempts to localize transitional justice will be addressed in this week's lecture.

Week 6: The Latin American experience
Latin America has been the cradle of transitional justice. After the end of the military dictatorships in Argentina, Chile, Guatemela and elsewhere truth commissions were set up to establish the truth about human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the military rulers and to create some form of accountability that would not jeopardize the peaceful transition from military rule to democracy. It was here, that the institutional blueprint of truth commissions elsewhere was developed and tested.

Week 7: The legacy of racism: South Africa
This week will focus on the truth and reconciliation commission in South Africa, discussing its socio-cultural and political context as well as the hearings and the final report assessing its contribution to the peaceful transition in South Africa and its legacy.

Week 8: Accounting for horror: The genocide in Rwanda
The genocide in Rwanda spawned a whole range of transitional justice mechanisms including an international criminal tribunal and village-level courts, the gacaca. This week will examine these various institutions and the impact they have had on the development of international justice and national reconciliation and the new beginning in Rwanda.

Week 9: Bad surroundings: Northern Uganda
Northern Uganda has been affected by decades of violence. Efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and realize reconciliation have included amnesty, a truth commission, national courts and investigations by the International Criminal Court.

Week 10: The bitterness of war: Sierra Leone and Liberia
After the end of the civil war in 2002, two transitional justice mechanisms have operated in Sierra Leone: a truth commission and an international criminal court, the Special Court for Sierra Leone. In Liberia, there has been a heated debate about holding accountable perpetrators of crimes committed during the civil war but attempts to establish a criminal tribunal have met strong resistance by former warlords who are represented in the national assembly. The government established with international support a truth commission that documented the crimes committed by the various factions.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  50
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course is assessed by the following:

20% of the course grade will be awarded for a short assignment.

80% for a 3,000-word essay on a topic related to the course theme.
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. show knowledge of academic and policy debates about transitional justice in context in relation to humanitarian and development interventions.
  2. critically understand the theories, concepts and the practice of the whole range of transitional justice mechanisms aimed at realizing new beginnings after widespread violence and oppression.
  3. show detailed knowledge of case studies examining specific transitional justice mechanisms in Africa and elsewhere.
  4. critically evaluate and analyse the empirical evidence on the operation of truth commissions, criminal trials and other forms of transitional justice.
  5. critically understand the challenges and realities of work in the field of international development, legal reform and humanitarian assistance.
Reading List
Key Readings:

Allen, Tim. 2006. Trial Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Lord's Resistance Army. London: Zed Books.

Anders, Gerhard and Olaf Zenker, eds. 2014. Transition and Justice: Negotiating the Terms of New Beginnings. Special Issue Development and Change 45(3).

Arthur, Paige. 2009. "How 'Transitions' Reshaped Human Rights: A Conceptual History of Transitional Justice", Human Rights Quarterly 31(2): 321-367.

Bell, Christine. 2009. "Transitional Justice, Interdisciplinarity and the State of the 'Field' or 'Non- Field'", International Journal of Transitional Justice 3(1): 5-27.

Buckely-Zistel, Susanne. 2006. "Remembering to Forget: Chosen Amnesia as a Strategy for Local Coexistence in Post-genocide Rwanda", Africa 76(2): 131-150.

Branch, Adam. 2011. Displacing Human Rights: War and Intervention in Northern Uganda. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clark, Phil. 2010. The Gacaca Courts, Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Clarke, Kamari Maxine. 2009. Fictions of Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Challenge of Legal Pluralism in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hagan, John, Ron Levi, Gabrielle Ferrales. 2006. "Swaying the Hand of Justice: The Internal and External Dynamics of Regime Change at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia", Law and Social Inquiry 31: 585- 616.

Oomen, Barbara. 2006. "Donor-driven Justice and its Discontents: The Case of Rwanda", Development and Change 365: 887-910.

Payne, Leigh A. 2008. Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence. Durham: Duke University Press.

Pillay, Suren, Chandra Lekha Sriram, eds. 2009. Peace versus Justice? The Dilemma of Transitional Justice in Africa. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

Roht-Arriaza, Naomi, Javier Mariezcurrena, eds. 2006. Transitional Justice in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shaw, Rosalind, Lars Waldorf, Pierre Hazan, eds. 2010. Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities After Mass Violence. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Teitel, Ruti. 2000. Transitional Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wilson, Richard. 2001. The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, Richard A. 2005. "Judging History: The Historical Record of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia", Human Rights Quarterly 27(3): 908-942.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Gerhard Anders
Tel: (0131 6)51 3178
Course secretaryMs Jessica Barton
Tel: (0131 6)51 5066
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