Transitional Justice’s Expanding Empire: Reasserting the Value of the Paradigmatic Transition?

Padraig McAuliffe

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    Abstract

    Transitional justice studies increasingly apply to processes of truth, restoration and accountability in contexts far removed from the paradigmatic transitions from authoritarianism or war to relatively liberal democracy on which the field was
    initially based. At a time when transitional justice is being evaluated with greater stringency, it is worrying that assessments of its worth might be unduly coloured by reliance on non-transitional circumstances of established democracies or
    ongoing conflicts or authoritarianism. A systematic empirical understanding of the value of transitional justice is skewed when undue weight is given to mechanisms applied in favourable contexts. This may be where political or economic
    circumstances are so advanced that the mechanisms have little causal significance to an ongoing process of political, civil and (possibly) economic reform, or in contexts too inimical to anything approaching a liberalising or peace-building
    conclusion (e.g. when it takes place while war is ongoing or within an authoritarian regime). The article accepts that transitional justice mechanisms can be used to improve conditions under authoritarianism or war and can augment the rule of law, development and human rights in states that are already committed to liberal democracy. However, its impact in these non-paradigmatic circumstances will be limited because of the weakness of the state’s commitment to improving
    societal conditions in the former and the pre-existing strength of the commitment in the latter. It argues that there is a distinction between transitional justice and the use of transitional justice mechanisms.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)32-44
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Conflictology
    Volume2
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Keywords

    • transitional justice,
    • war
    • authoritarianism
    • transition
    • trial
    • truth commission

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