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Transitional Justice


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

At least one of the following,

  • Introduction to Socio-Legal Studies,

  • Principles of Public International Law,

  • Comparative Justice Systems.

Recommended course(s):

  • Law, Culture and Society,

  • International and Regional Human Rights,

  • Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies.


We all have a history. Transitional justice is concerned with how histories that are deemed problematic should be dealt with in the present. The field emerged in the 1990s, when societies in South America and Eastern Europe were emerging from periods of authoritarian rule and sought to strike a balance between forging democratic governance and redressing past wrongs. In Central America and parts of Africa, meanwhile, societies emerging from civil war also sought to deal with the past through measures that went beyond criminal trials. This was at a time when Western Europe and North America seemed to have emerged triumphant from the Cold War; liberal democracy was promoted as a model around the world. Today there is less certainty about the viability of liberal democracy, but even if attempts at redressing historical wrongs have largely failed to yield stable democracies, transitional justice remains a vigorous field.

This course introduces the history of this field with a focus on recent developments, including the use of TJ mechanisms to address colonial histories, and to address histories that transcend the borders of single states. Throughout, we ask what purposes it serves to revisit historical wrongs and how such processes can be rendered meaningful for a broader range of constituencies.

Measures of transitional justice:

  • Criminal prosecutions

  • Truth commissions

  • Amnesty laws

  • Reparations

  • Official apologies

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 deal with histories that are deemed problematic,

  • To assess strengths and weaknesses of different measures of transitional justice, and

  • To explain dilemmas and trade-offs faced by societies that come out of a history when wrongdoings were committed on a large scale.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is 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; you will also be expected to participate by debating key themes on a discussion forum.

In the second half of the course, we will run a simulation focused on one process of tentative redress for historical wrongdoing. The actors involved in that process will have various positions on which measures should be taken and who should take responsibility for what, in regard to the past events in question. Each student will be assigned a role to play, and your task will be to flesh out your position and advocate for it as convincingly as possible, while also seeking alliances and compromises in view of reaching a settlement on how the past wrongs can be acknowledged and remedied.

The final assignment in the course is an essay, which will allow you to analyse one case of your choice to examine how problematic pasts were dealt with, why choices were made for certain measures and not others, and what these choices have implied for perceptions of justice.

Assessment Method

  • Group presentation: 15%

  • Discussion forum: 15%

  • Simulation: participation 19%, position paper 16%

  • Essay 35%

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,


Dr. I. Samset,