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Transitional Justice




Admissions requirements

International and Regional Human Rights and/or International Humanitarian Law.


Armed conflicts and authoritarian forms of rule tend to come with the commission of human rights violations on a large scale. As a society comes out of war or dictatorship, actors in it have to find a way to deal with the legacy of massive human rights abuses. And so actors in such societies have done, and increasingly do in our time. As the Second World War ended, the Allies set up tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo to hold to account those responsible for some of the most serious wartime crimes. As white minority rule gave way to multi-party democracy in South Africa, a truth commission was set up so that the history of apartheid be documented, the victims be recognised and former adversaries could begin to converge on a shared understanding of their past. In Colombia, the 2016 peace deal that ended the long civil war included an agreement to establish a special jurisdiction to try alleged wartime crimes, to be operating alongside a truth commission. These institutions have now started their work.

How do societies that emerge from large-scale conflict address the legacy of violence, and to what effect? In this course we examine these questions, investigating various cases and drawing on a literature spanning political science, law, philosophy, social psychology, sociology, history as well as other fields.

Mechanisms or measures of justice in transitions (Weeks 1-5):

  • Criminal prosecutions

  • Truth commissions

  • Amnesties

  • Reparations

  • Official apologies

  • Memorialisation

  • Institutional reform

Cross-cutting debates (Weeks 2, 5 and 7):

  • Retributive vs. restorative justice

  • Drivers and dynamics

  • Whose justice?

  • Boundaries of transitional justice

Course objectives

By completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Apply terms and ideas that are central in the transitional justice field to real-world settings and problems.

By completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Compare and contrast various ways in which societies in transition deal with a legacy of human rights violations,

  • Assess strengths and weaknesses of different mechanisms of transitional justice, and

  • Explain dilemmas and trade-offs faced by societies that come out of a history of armed conflict and/or authoritarian rule.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of 14 two-hour interactive seminars. Readings will be discussed in plenary and smaller groups, and once in the course, each student will be part of a group who will present on two readings in class, and write a joint response paper about them. Students will also be expected to participate by reflecting on what you learn in the course and on your own learning process by writing an individual online journal.

In Weeks 5 and 6, students will simulate negotiations related to a civil war. Your task will be to try to reach an agreement regarding how to deal with the alleged human rights violations committed during that conflict. Each student will play a role as a representative of one of the conflict parties, a domestic stakeholder or an external actor. The aim will be to work out a plan for transitional justice for implementation after the war’s end, that each core constituency of domestic actors will be willing to agree to.


  • Joint response paper (15%) and presentation (5%) (Weeks 2-4 of the course),

  • Simulation (Weeks 5-6): participation (15%) and position paper (15%),

  • Individual journal (entry due dates throughout the course, to be specified; 10%),

  • Exam (Week 8; 40%).


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

The list of course materials will be made available upon commencement of the course.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr Ingrid Samset