Tensions and Dilemmas in Transitional Justice

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During the last century, a number of different massive violence situations have occurred (e.g. Cambodia’s killing fields, mass disappearances in Argentina, genocide in Rwanda and Guatemala, war crimes in northern Uganda, former Yugoslavia’s ethnic cleansing, internal conflict and paramilitary politics in Colombia). These atrocities have produced different responses in the fields of international justice, mental health, history, education, among others (Minow, 1980). However, impunity is a prevalent pattern after gross human rights violations (Sveaass, 2013; Beristain, 2010; Hamber, 2009). Research has shown that for victims of political trauma and human rights abuses, justice is an important element and its inclusion in comprehensive reparation programs is usually experienced positively by them (Hamber, 2009; Letschert & van Dijk, 2011).

International and transitional justice (TJ) were created trying to assist and provide some recognition and acknowledgement to victims and societies in post-conflict scenarios. Transitional justice refers to the set of judicial and non-judicial measures that have been implemented by different countries to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses. These measures include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and various kinds of institutional reforms (Van Bowen, 2005; De Greiff, 2006). Approximately forty Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have been launched until the present date (e.g. Honduras, Canada, Uruguay, Tunisia, Chile, East Timor, Peru). The best known is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was established after the Apartheid regime.

The course is structured in twelve sessions where we will overview various conceptualizations, epistemologies and mechanisms of TJ and their relations to the notions of victim-centered approach, reconciliation, and reparation. Transitional justice is a new and challenging field with interdisciplinary implications in law, sociology, public policy, gender studies, victimology, psychosocial fields, and others. During our classes, we will discuss the strengths and challenges of the different TJ experiences around the world. We will explore some legal paradigms of transitional justice, but this course aims to reflect on the different transitional justice ontologies and discuss comparatively TJ practical experiences

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