Transitional Justice (TJ) refers to the ways countries emerging from periods of conflict and repression address large scale or systematic human rights violations so numerous and so serious that the normal justice system will not be able to provide an adequate response. The aims of TJ will vary depending on the context but these features are constant: the recognition of the dignity of individuals; the redress and acknowledgment of violations; and the aim to prevent them happening again.
One can regard TJ as a form of Restorative Justice (RJ) but on a community or national level. As with RJ, TJ is rooted in accountability and redress for victims. It recognizes their dignity as citizens and as human beings.
According to the International Center for Transitional Justice:
the aims of transitional justice will vary depending on the context but these features are constant: the recognition of the dignity of individuals; the redress and acknowledgment of violations; and the aim to prevent them happening again…Traditionally a great deal of emphasis has been put on four types of “approaches”:
- Criminal prosecutions for at least the most responsible for the most serious crimes
- “Truth-seeking” (or fact-finding) processes into human rights violations by non-judicial bodies. These can be varied but often look not only at events, but their causes and impacts.
- Reparations for human rights violations taking a variety of forms: individual, collective, material, and symbolic
- Reform of laws and institutions including the police, judiciary, military, and military intelligence.
The UN and Transitional Justice
The UN’s principal goal is to prevent wars from starting, and in this goal it has had some successes but many failures. Therefore TJ has become an increasingly important part of its work as it tries to resolve issues that caused wars and so prevent them from recurring. For example the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has produced a number of documents about how TJ can be strengthened. Also see the list of other information below on more of the UN’s thinking about TJ.