Transitional Justice

Matt Murphy

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Transitional Justice

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Transitional justice (sometimes called retroactive justice) is broadly defined as policies undertaken by a new regime to rectify or ameliorate injustices perpetrated by the previous regime. It differs from regular “justice” in that it spans different legal or constitutional structures resulting from regime transitions. Its contemporary meaning is usually slightly narrower, referring almost exclusively to policies enacted in an unconsolidated or newly democratic regime to address injustices of the previous authoritarian regime. The primary actors implementing transitional justice are states and international organizations, although increasingly the roles of actors such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), villages, and private citizens are considered as well. The relevant injustices are often understood first as human rights violations, such as war crimes, genocide, torture, or disappearances, but transitional justice policies can also be aimed at a much wider range of targets, such as more conventional legal crimes, political decisions, bureaucratic crimes, corruption, collaboration, and socioeconomic injustices. The range of policies falling under the rubric of transitional justice includes criminal trials, purges, screening, truth commissions, amnesties, reparations, compensation, rehabilitation, apologies, property restitution, memorialization, and policies aimed at reconciliation. Although there is a long history of literature on these issues, there was no field called “transitional justice” until the 1980s. Since then it has developed across all the main subfields of political science, primarily international relations, comparative politics, and political theory, and less so in American politics. Much analysis comes in the form of collections of case studies and is descriptive or normative, concerning what policies are necessary, appropriate, or beneficial in what contexts. Rapidly expanding since the early 2000s has been empirical and comparative work on the causes of and constraints on transitional justice policies; the impacts of policy choices at political, social, and psychological levels; and the effects of the process of implementation on outcomes.

Article.  10580 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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