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Transitional Justice




Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: similarly-tagged 200/300-level courses or permission of the instructor.

Course description

The course aims to expose students to the key concepts of transitional justice, requiring them to develop sophisticated and well-founded opinions on the range of approaches to post-conflict transition and redress and accountability for widespread human rights abuses. We will begin with the history of armed conflict and the ethics of international intervention, using case studies to demonstrate the complexities of addressing conflict drivers in a comprehensive and sustainable manner. The lectures and case studies will introduce the core elements of a comprehensive transitional justice policy: institutional reform, reparations, truth commissions, and criminal prosecutions. Through student-lead learning assignments and a research paper, students will acquire the knowledge to engage productively with the central issues leading to the relative success or failure of transitional justice efforts in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Weekly overview

Week 1 – Introduction
Session 1: Introductory Session: Conflict and Transition in the 20th Century
Session 2: When is Transitional Justice Appropriate?

Week 2 – International Intervention
Session 1: Conflict Monitoring & the Ethics of Intervention
Session 2: Case Study: Libya vs. Syria

Week 3 – Roots of Conflict
Session 1: Introduction to Conflict Drivers
Session 2: Addressing Conflict Drivers in Peace Processes

Week 4 – Institutional Reform: The Tension between Transitional Priorities & Conflict Drivers
Session 1: Civil & Political Rights vs. Economic, Social & Cultural Rights
Session 2: Negotiation Simulation

Week 5 – Methods of Post-Conflict Justice I
Session 1: DDR & Localized Initiatives: Special Look at Child Soldiers
Session 2: Case Study: Lessons Learned from Rwanda

Week 6 – Methods of Post-Conflict Justice II
Session 1: Conceptualizations of Justice: Truth & Reconciliation Commissions and Memory
Session 2: Conceptualizations of Justice: The Role of Reparations

Week 7 – Methods of Post-Conflict Justice III
Session 1: The Role of Criminal Prosecutions in Seeking Justice
Session 2: Visit to International Criminal Court (TBC)

Week 8 – Reading Week
Research Paper Due

Learning objectives

After successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • better understand the role of transitional justice in international law

  • appreciate the potential created by changes in geopolitical landscapes

  • identify relevant legal limitations to political decision making practices

  • improve legal reasoning and writing

  • develop, present, and defend sophisticated arguments in a persuasive manner

Mode of instruction

Weekly lectures and case studies.

This course consists of fourteen two-hour sessions (two sessions per week, for seven weeks).

The sessions will include lecturing to introduce the key concepts and philosophical dilemmas highlighted by the course, but will also rely on meaningful class participation in order to delve deeper into the issues raised in assigned materials, which students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss.


In-class participation, 15%, Weeks 1-7
In-class negotiation simulation, 20%, Week 4
Negotiation report, 25%, Week 5
Final research paper, 40%, Week 8

Compulsory literature

Course readings will be provided through the Blackboard environment.

Preparation for first session

Any reading, writing, presenting, or thinking task for the first session will be announced in the syllabus of the course.