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GOVT-587 Transitional Justice: Trials, Purges and Truth Commissions
Fall for 2014-2015
Transitional justice refers to the processes and mechanisms which enable a state to move from a situation of massive human rights violations and undemocratic rule to the beginning of the rule of law and participatory democracy. Central to this process is the need to ensure both peace and justice in fragile states living at the interregnum between the past and the future. Which comes first – justice or peace? A related question concerns the relationship between justice and reconciliation? What is meant by political reconciliation? How is this
distinguishable from personal reconciliation?

Those who prioritize justice argue that the promotion of international law, through mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), is imperative to prevent impunity, as an act of deterrence and to provide a basis for the establishment of the rule of law in an emerging new society.

Those who prioritize peace and reconciliation emphasize the need for political and other moral trade-offs that may be required to ensure peace. Under what circumstances, if at all, does this require the suspension of the demands of international law regarding genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes?

Are there situations where restorative and distributive justice should take
precedence over the demands of retributive justice? Is it possible to have both?

This course considers mechanisms of transitional justice in different historical and political contexts. These range from the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials in the 1940s, to the supra-national criminal tribunals of Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as the emergence and proliferation of truth commissions in different situations of conflict. Attention is given to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an example of what truth commissions can and cannot achieve.

The International Criminal Court is considered in relation to the challenges of its effectiveness coming from the African Union and other quarters.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

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Fall '14: Villa-Vicencio C (file download)
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