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Transitional Justice


Admission requirements

No required courses, but International & Regional Human Rights and/or International Humanitarian Law are recommended.


Armed conflicts and authoritarian forms of rule tend to come with the commission of human rights violations on a large scale. As societies come out of war or dictatorship, actors in them have to find a way to deal with the legacy of 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 could be documented, the victims be recognised and former adversaries 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 this, investigating various cases and drawing on a literature spanning various disciplines and fields.

Mechanisms or measures of transitional justice:

  • Criminal prosecutions

  • Truth commissions

  • Amnesty laws

  • Reparations

  • Official apologies

Cross-cutting debates:

  • Whose justice?

  • Transitional justice in time

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.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will be taught interactively. Core readings will be introduced in lectures and discussed in class and group meetings. Each student will be part of a group that will give a presentation on two readings, in the first half of the course. You will also be expected to participate by discussing central themes on a discussion forum. In the mid-term exam, students will be expected to convey some of what you’ve learned up to that point in audio or video format, while the final assignment will allow you to analyse in more depth a transitional justice question by writing an essay.

Assessment Method

  • Group presentation: 16%

  • Discussion forum: 19%

  • Mid-term exam: 25%

  • Essay 40%

Reading list

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


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator, course.administration@luc.leidenuniv.nl.


Dr Ingrid Samset, i.samset@luc.leidenuniv.nl