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.

    The possibility of transitional justice post-Mugabe in Zimbabwe
    Dr Thompson Chengeta

     Through a reign of terror and a ruinous economic policy, the ZANU-PF Government of Zimbabwe [GoZ] not only violated the rights of Zimbabweans but broke the relationship between the Government and its citizens. In order to rebuild Zimbabwe, the broken relationship must be mended. As African elders say, “the ruin of a nation begins in the homes of its people”. The recently initiated transitional justice processes such as the national peace and reconciliation have the potential to fix the relationship between the GoZ and its citizens. Nevertheless, while scholars and organisations may...

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    Legal Witnessing and Mass Human Rights Violations: Remembering Atrocities
    Benjamin Thorne

    International criminal courts and tribunals, such as the ICT for Rwanda, are commonly understood within legal scholarship as the primary tool that is utilized after mass human rights violations. This is so not only in addressing impunity, but also in uncovering the truth of what happened and why. Victims play a pivotal role in these processes of justice. However, there are significant limitations in legal collective understandings of the past. In legal transitional justice scholarship, these have received sparse critical investigation.   Legal witnesses and their contribution to tribunals...

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    Feasible Justice: Has Colombia Over-Promised and Under-Delivered Reparations for its 8.6 Million Victims?
    Julia Zulver, University of Oxford

     Colombia’s unprecedented reparations programme guarantees financial, land restitution, and holistic benefits for millions of victims. With only 7% payment to date, however, the government faces the challenge of making good on promises to its citizenry, undermining the potential for building lasting peace. In 2016, after four years of official negotiations, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP, Spanish acronym) were finally able to negotiate a definitive peace, and the country is now in a full-scale transition away from its violent past. The...

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    Teachers’ Influence: Transitional Justice and the Impact of Education
    Dr. John Sturtz

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, recently advocated a deeper form of education – one that “goes beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic to include skills and values that can equip people to act with responsibility and care…guided by human rights education to make informed choices in life, to approach situations with critical and independent thought, and to empathize with other points of view.” Education is an important part of transitional justice and calls for new ideas about what and how we teach young people. If the goal is to use...

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    Women’s Victimization in Transitional Justice and their Fight : The Story of Taiwan
    Yi-Li Lee

    Women, even though they were main victims of Taiwan’s authoritarian regime, have been largely absent from the transitional justice mechanisms after Taiwan successfully transformed into a democracy. Following the discussion of women’s victimization in times of political oppression and the negative impacts of women’s absence in Taiwan’s current transitional justice process, this essay argues that the recent incorporation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women provides a gender-sensitive legal framework for female victims to overcome the social and...

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    Can Memorialisation Generate Public Demand for Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka?
    Gehan Gunatilleke

    Sri Lanka’s three-decade civil war in the North and East of the country, along with an insurrection in the South, witnessed the death and disappearance of thousands. Despite these egregious events, the Sri Lankan state has failed to provide public spaces for memorialisation. In this context, transitional justice practitioners in Sri Lanka have advocated for state-sponsored promotion of memorialisation. Scholars and victims are, however, divided on the issue.  This article offers an alternative perspective on the importance of ‘victim-centred’ memorialisation in Sri Lanka. It argues that...

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    New Kosovo Court Pledges to Finally Prosecute Ex-Guerrillas
    Marija Ristić

    The new special court will try to make up for the failures of several international efforts to bring former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters to justice for 1990s crimes, but witness protection, legitimacy and outreach remain key challenges ahead. After five years of negotiations, the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office will finally launch its first judicial activity this year. Although based in The Hague, the Specialist Chambers (SC) is legally part of Kosovo’s judicial system, but independent from the Kosovo judiciary and staffed by internationals, while all...

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    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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