Oxford Transitional Justice Research

The articles published in this section are selected and edited by Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR), a research group based in the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford. The views expressed in these articles are those of their authors and do not reflect the views of OTJR or the University of Oxford.

    Rethinking customary law in Somaliland: specific jurisdiction for rape to promote post-conflict development
    Rakiya Omaar and Caitlin Lambert

     Somaliland does not enjoy international recognition as an independent state, but it does have what its people regard as their most precious asset : peace. After seceding from Somalia in May 1991, following a prolonged and bloody civil war, a shattered territory had to be rebuilt from scratch by people impoverished and scarred by years of exile, mainly in refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia. Despite the odds, Somaliland has established a functioning system of governance with little outside assistance while the rest of Somalia remains at war. This success is underpinned by the...

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    International Criminal Justice in Africa: Examining African Alternatives to the ICC
    Oliver Windridge Counsel at the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, Washington D.C

    In 2016 the threat of mass withdrawals from the ICC once again came into prominence. Since the turn of the year, whilst the threat remains a real concern to many observers, it has been somewhat tempered by Gambia’s and South Africa’s recent decisions not to withdraw from the ICC. However, the continued evolution of international criminal justice requires the examination of alternative international criminal justice options above and beyond the ICC, including the African Union’s very own court, the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.   Introduction   One of the most important...

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    Congo : The Challenges of the First Implementation of the ICC's Reparations Mandate
    Kirsten J. Fisher, Ph.D.

    On 14 March 2012, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (Lubanga) was found guilty before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15, and using them to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This was the first conviction for the ICC and an important step in the international condemnation of the use of child soldiers. With this conviction came a sentence of 14 years in prison for Lubanga and the hope of justice for his victims – children as young as 11 who were forced to fight and die,...

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    Will Kenya withdraw from the ICC?
    Dr Thomas Obel Hansen, Lecturer of Law, Transitional Justice Institute/ Ulster University Law School, Belfast, UK.

    Whereas a Kenyan withdrawal from the ICC is a real possibility, Nairobi may be tempted to instead use the threat of a withdrawal to push its agenda on the ICC.  Since Burundi announced in October that it had decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) founding treaty, the Rome Statute, commentators have been busy speculating whether – and, if so, which – other African State Parties would be next. Few had predicted that South Africa would be the first to go ahead, in fact beating Burundi to the finish line by providing the UN Secretary General with the formal...

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    Nuanced Memory in Rwanda and Uganda : Responsibilities of justice practitioners
    Samantha Lakin (M.A.)

    The international community has established memorialization as a key transitional justice mechanism that holds symbolic value for societies recovering from conflict. As such, memorial efforts can help victims feel a sense of validation by the post-conflict community by recognizing and symbolically redressing the harms they suffered (Hamber et al. 2010). According to a key report about violence in Northern Uganda published by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), “memorials are intended to preserve memories of people or events. Many are designed to promote a specific...

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    Nation-to-Nation Reconciliation in Canada
    Michele Krech

    For over a century, Indigenous children in Canada were separated from their families, communities and cultures to attend government-funded, church-run residential schools, in a concerted effort to assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society.  The long history and ongoing legacy of the Indian Residential School System (IRSS) went largely unacknowledged until a formal truth-seeking process was undertaken by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) between 2009 and 2015. While the Commission’s formal truth-seeking process is now complete, the journey towards its ultimate...

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    Transitional Justice in Ukraine: Reconciliation or Reconsolidation of Post-Communist Trauma?
    Ilya Nuzov

    Shortly after the 2014 Maidan Revolution, during an international armed conflict with Russia in the East of the country, Ukraine adopted a package of four Decommunization Laws addressing its Soviet history. Largely a product of politics of memory, these measures further a particular understanding of past events that will likely continue to fuel division and distrust among Ukrainians, and between Ukraine and Russia.   Introduction   Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution in winter 2014 culminated in the ouster of Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych, after his refusal to sign a European Union...

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    Tunisia: the price of economic reconciliation in the transitional justice process.
    Geeta Koska

    In recent years the involvement of economic elites and business in corruption has come under increasing scrutiny. In response, transitional justice has also come under pressure to address the link between the private sector, corruption and human rights violations during conflicts or a period of repression. In Tunisia, the transitional justice process has opted to engage non-judicial mechanisms to tackle the role of economic elites in corruption. However, it will be argued that truth commissions of this kind are not sufficient to achieve justice and support the transition to a stable...

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    Rethinking a Truth Commission in Colombia

    For nearly six decades, the Colombian government has struggled to quell the country’s armed conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced, and much of the countryside ungovernable. In June 2015, the Colombian government, under the leadership of President Juan Manuel Santos, and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, or FARC, overcame a major hurdle in their three-year long peace negotiations. On June 4, the two sides announced an agreement to create an impartial, independent and extrajudicial truth commission that would clarify the causes and consequences of...

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    New Peruvian law offers hope to relatives of the disappeared

    The majestic yet forbidding landscape of the Peruvian highlands hides grim secrets. The country’s Ayacucho region was the cradle of Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path, which waged a total and ultimately futile war against the Peruvian state between 1980 and 2000. Many of the forgotten victims of the 20-year internal armed conflict lie buried or simply abandoned in Ayacucho’s mountain passes, old mineshafts, and makeshift hillside cemeteries. Thousands of peasant farmers and highland townsfolk were slaughtered in the internecine warfare, with state and guerrilla forces vying to outdo one...

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    Reparations for victimised perpetrators
    Dr Luke Moffett Director of the Human Rights Centre Queen's University Belfast

     Reparations are often touted as victim focused measures of redressing transitional justice and human rights. However, identifying which victims are eligible for reparations goes to heart of debates about the legitimacy of the violence and who deserves a remedy. Some individuals are perceived as more innocent and deserving than others as part of contested narratives over the past. This is particularly acute for those with ties to terrorist or non-state armed groups who are often denied from claiming reparations, even if they have suffered serious harm. However, the difference between...

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    Argentine anniversary puts truth-justice balance into the spotlight

    On 24 March 2016, hundreds of thousands of Argentines flooded the streets around Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the country’s bloody 1976 military coup.  The date also marked the UN Day on the Right to Truth, making it a unique invitation to reassess Argentina’s transitional justice legacy 33 years after the post-coup regime collapsed, in the aftermath of economic collapse and military defeat, after the 1983 Falklands/Malvinas war. The recent commemoration, which some say was the largest ever, was a far from sober affair.  Whistles, drumbeats, extravagant...

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    Myanmar’s transition and the prognosis for reform of the justice sector

    To many, the overwhelming election victory in November 2015 for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (‘NLD’) has increased the space in Myanmar for both transitional justice and legal sector reform. Yet the transitional justice mechanisms ultimately implemented to deal with how the country comes to terms with the legacy of past state violence and repression, and the sustainability of broader justice reforms, will be dependent on the new government overcoming long-standing political, popular and practical challenges. Keeping the country united when the future role of the military...

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    Justice for forced sterilization victims: Pending points in Peru’s transitional justice agenda

    Justice and redress for alleged victims of forced sterilization have long been prorogued  on Peru’s transitional justice agenda. The Ombudsman (2002) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2003) reported that this practice was common place during ex-President Alberto Fujimori’s mandate and potentially affected around 300,000 persons, mainly rural workers and indigenous women. They were allegedly surgically sterilized without their consent via the Reproductive/Family Planning Programme (1996-2000) implemented to control the population growth in accordance with economic development...

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    Planning for Transitional Justice on the Korean Peninsula

    In the wake of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, South Korea faces challenges in preparing for transitional justice ahead of regime change in the North and possible inter-Korean unification. The soon-to-be Cold War powers orchestrating the division of the Korean Peninsula in 1945 could never have foreseen the decades of strife and tragedy that would soon unfold in the form of a devastating three-year war and the subsequent installation of dictatorships on both sides of the demilitarised zone. With imperial Japan defeated after thirty-five years of oppressive...

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    Challenging Impunity in Brazil

    Throughout Latin America a “post-transitional justice” trend is increasingly challenging the political bargains struck at the time of the democratic transitions in the region. This wave of late justice is clearly reflected in the rising number of human rights trials addressing past human rights abuses in several countries. South America’s regional giant, Brazil, has until quite recently, however, dodged this regional trend. Brazilian Exceptionalism Unlike other countries in South America, Brazil has not followed the pattern of challenging the military regime’s self-amnesty. Brazil’s...

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    Corporate Accountability and Transitional Justice in Myanmar
    Irene Pietropaoli, Business and human rights consultant for Amnesty International in Myanmar

    On 1 February 2016 Myanmar convened its first democratically elected parliament after five decades of military rule.  Given the role that resource control played in the conflict, addressing corporate accountability in transitional justice mechanisms is critical to breaking down impunity, addressing causes of conflict, and achieving sustainable transition and economic development. But both transitional justice and corporate accountability, which comprises measures to hold companies responsible for human rights abuses, are not on the political agenda. As economic growth is set as a priority,...

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    Will Sri Lanka’s New Government Provide Accountability for Civil War Atrocities?

    Six years after the end of Sri Lanka’s devastating civil war, a transitional justice process is finally beginning. The consensus adoption this month of a UN Human Rights Council resolution on accountability, cosponsored by Sri Lanka itself, signals a shift in the country’s attitude towards its past and its relationship with the international community. But although the resolution contains five pages of details, it is not entirely clear what, exactly, Sri Lanka has committed itself to. A battle over the interpretation of the text is underway. Did the government skillfully deflect the threat...

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    Confronting the dictatorial past in Tunisia: The politicization of transitional justice
    Dr. Kora Andrieu, Human Rights Officer, United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Mali

     In Tunisia, soon after the fall of the Ben Ali regime in January 2011, the toolkit of transitional justice was almost immediately put in place. Countless conferences, workshops and seminars were organized by the international community almost immediately after the revolution to sensitize the temporary government and civil society organizations about the importance of transitional justice, and “sell” its tools to local actors. Tunisia appeared to many as the perfect laboratory for a comprehensive transitional justice approach that would then, hopefully, resonate in the entire Arab region....

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    Transitional Justice’s Uneven Path in the DRC

    In a country marked by protracted conflicts which are estimated to have caused the death and displacement of millions of civilians, transitional justice efforts have been slow and patchy. Despite some recent advances, in particular on the criminal justice front, a more expanded approach to transitional justice is needed if peace and justice are to be achieved. Having experienced one of the deadliest conflicts of the past decades, the DRC is saddled with a heavy legacy of widespread and systematic human rights abuses committed by state and non-state actors in successive, interlocking wars...

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