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Transitional Justice


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Completion of least one of the following course is required:

  • Introduction to Socio-Legal Studies

  • Principles of Public International Law

  • Comparative Justice Systems

Other recommended courses are:

  • 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. 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 reckon with past wrongs 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 pasts and to address histories that transcend the borders of single states. Throughout, we ask what purposes it might serve to revisit historical wrongs and how such processes can be rendered meaningful for a wider range of people.

Measures of transitional justice that we will study include:

  • 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 to 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 2022-2023 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. Each student will be part of a group that will give a presentation on two course readings. You will also be expected to participate off-class by writing an individual journal.

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

The final assignment is an essay, which will allow you to analyse one case of your choice to examine questions such as how past harms were dealt with in that case, why choices were made for certain measures and not others, and what these choices implied for perceptions of justice.

Assessment Method

  • Group presentation: 15%

  • Journal: 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,