Wahlpflichtfach II: "Transitional Justice"

  • Put simply, transitional justice is dealing with a society's abusive past to build a better future. Covering up an abusive past in the aftermath of conflict or authoritarian rule adds insult to injury and fuels a climate of distrust. It legitimizes the use of violence to achieve political ends and breeds a culture of impunity in which abuses are more likely to be repeated. Dealing with the abusive past, on the other hand, acknowledges the past abuses, affirms the validity of human rights and (re)instates a culture of impunity. It recognises victims not just as victims but as right-bearing citizens. Dealing with the past also helps dismantle criminal networks and makes state institutions more trustworthy. As a result, transitional justice helps prevent the recurrence of the same abuses, builds respect for the rule of law, and contributes to reconciliation in the long-term.

    In this course, we will explore, by way of example, some of the key measures that societies have employed to deal with legacies of massive human rights abuse. We will discuss truth-seeking efforts; criminal and other accountability mechanisms; reparation programmes that offer various remedies to victims; and other measures to prevent the same abuses from happening again. While justice in the aftermath of massive abuse can never be "perfect", there are no shortcuts to reconciliation that forgo the principles of justice. Hence transitional justice combines a range of measures to provide as much justice as possible in societies emerging from conflict or authoritarian rule.
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