Transitional Justice

Transitional justice (TJ) consists of judicial and non-judicial mechanisms implemented during processes of transition to peace and democracy in countries experiencing widespread and systematic human rights violations. Along with official TJ mechanisms such as criminal courts, truth commissions, reparations and restitution programs and institutional reform, there are also unofficial mechanisms established by victims-survivors, conflict-affected communities and civil society. TJ is on the one hand oriented towards the past, seeking to uncover truths regarding violations, prosecute those responsible, and compensate for damages caused, and on the other towards the future, as it aims to take precautions to ensure the non-repetition of such violations.   

Within TJ literature and practice there are critical perspectives problematizing approaches focusing exclusively on civil and political rights such as the right to life and ban on torture and suggesting/imposing a one-size-fits-all solution for every context. Locally-rooted, context-specific and participatory processes, as well as an approach also factoring in economic, social and cultural rights with the aim of eliminating structural inequalities such as discrimination based on gender, race and/or ethnicity are on the rise as an alternative. This approach involves rendering visible the experiences of those impacted by conflict, particularly women and/or LGBTI+ individuals, opening up space for intersectional forms of agency (such as peacebuilder, witness and/or enactor of a violation) not confined to the position of ‘victim’. This is the TJ approach espoused by DEMOS, which despite its awareness of the inherent limitations of TJ, values the role these mechanisms are capable of playing in transforming the inequalities giving rise to violations and ultimately establishing societal peace.