In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Post-Conflict and Transitional Justice

  • Introduction
  • Online Sources
  • Key Debates
  • What Determines Transitional Justice Policy?
  • Reconciliation
  • Victims and Victimhood
  • Methods
  • Post-Transitional Justice

International Relations Post-Conflict and Transitional Justice
Iosif Kovras
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 August 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0157


Transitional justice refers to the range of formal, informal, or grassroots mechanisms deployed by societies emerging from civil war or authoritarian rule to address past human rights violations. These include, but are not limited to, criminal prosecution of perpetrators (see Trials), truth commissions tasked to document patterns of human rights abuses (see Truth Commissions), policies of lustration (or vetting), amnesty laws (see Amnesties), material or symbolic reparations to victims, public apologies, and revision of history textbooks (see Other Policies: Lustration, Apologies, Memorials, History Textbooks). Most often, transitional justice refers to official state policies, yet over the past two decades, there has been an increase in grassroots mechanisms led by civil society, victims groups, and NGOs, thus expanding the scope of transitional justice. Some observers distinguish between the transitional justice policies of post-conflict and post-authoritarian settings. Although certain challenges faced by political elites and victims are comparable across settings, this article focuses on the former. Debates of how to address the violent past are inevitable in societies emerging from conflict, and most hinge on the thorny issue of whether to hold perpetrators accountable or to let bygones be bygones. This, of course, is a perennial dilemma, but with the changing nature of warfare and the normative turn in international politics, such questions have become more prominent. Since the end of the Second World War, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of intrastate wars, marked by more civilian deaths away from battlefields (see Victims and Victimhood). In sharp contrast to previous forms of conventional warfare where the absence of violence was a sufficient condition for the consolidation of peace in times of transition, the higher civilian casualties in contemporary civil wars mean any peaceful transition requires a proactive policy of restoring social relations fractured by violence. In this context, concepts such as national reconciliation (see Reconciliation), truth recovery, and transitional justice have gained currency in the literature of international politics.

Online Sources

The growth of transitional justice is reflected in a number of online sources shedding light on different aspects of transitional justice. International Center for Transitional Justice is the leading forum linking policymaking with research and has branches in a number of post-conflict societies around the world. The International Journal of Transitional Justice is the leading journal in the field; some of the most important contributions in the field have been published in this journal. Also several universities have developed thematic expertise and have organized activities on transitional justice including the Oxford Transitional Justice Research, Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University as well as Essex Transitional Justice Network.

  • Essex Transitional Justice Network.

    This is another leading forum in the study of transitional justice in the UK, based at the University of Essex. Building on an interdisciplinary team of researchers, the network’s activities range from summer schools, conferences, working papers’ series, as well as a number of online resources freely available to visitors of the website.

  • International Center for Transitional Justice.

    The ICTJ is the global leader in the study of transitional justice. It is primarily policy oriented, but it also publishes reports based on original research on individual countries or different transitional justice mechanisms, while it also supports specific victims’ groups in their quest for truth and accountability. The ICTJ has local branches in several countries emerging from conflict.

  • International Journal of Transitional Justice.

    This is the leading journal in the field. The interdisciplinary scope of the journal has made it an accessible venue for leading scholars in the field to publish their work. Some of the most influential publications on transitional justice from law, political science, anthropology, sociology and history have been published in IJTJ.

  • Oxford Transitional Justice Research.

    The forum hosts a number of collaborative research projects, while at the same time organizes academic and policy events on transitional justice. Its website contains helpful material ranging from podcasts to working papers and reports of past projects. It is based at the University of Oxford.

  • Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University.

    The TJI has been one of the most prominent centers for the study of transitional justice in the UK. Several leading member of the transitional justice community are based at the institute. One of the distinctive features of the TJI is the combination of the local experience of the “Troubles” in N. Ireland, with the global expertise in different transitional justice measures. The Institute offers postgraduate and PhD courses, as well as other academic activities on transitional justice.

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