The field of transitional justice seeks to address the complex interplay between the interests of individual survivors, communities, and societies in the aftermath of conflict and human rights abuse. Whether through truth commissions, criminal prosecutions, institutional reforms, or reparations schemes, efforts to achieve transitional justice must balance demands for truth, justice, and accountability with needs for reconciliation, political stability, and transformation. Transitional justice approaches gained momentum in the late 1980s and early 1990s in response to political upheaval, first in Latin America and then in Eastern Europe and Africa. Questions surrounding transitional justice often arise most acutely in countries emerging from systematic or widespread rights abuse and repression.
The International Human Rights Clinic works with communities and institutions on a range of transitional justice projects in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Our projects, often conducted in partnership with local non-governmental organizations, aim to address the legacy of past violations and consider options that can meet the needs of survivors and foster the rule of law. The Academic Program has also highlighted key areas of debate in the field. For example, a conference featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu led to the publication of a book, Children and Transitional Justice, The Clinic has also offered seminars on the topic.
In recent years, the Clinic has examined the lack of prosecution of apartheid-era crimes in South Africa following its Truth and Reconciliation Commission; offered recommendations for constitutional reform to advance Zimbabwe’s transition away from dictatorship and towards democracy; supported transitional justice efforts in Cambodia with legal research; and presented research to the Brazilian federal prosecutor about the necessity and legality of accountability for crimes of past authoritarian regimes.
Most recently, the Clinic has presented a policy memorandum to reform specific military policies and practices that have led to indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Myanmar, and authored a report that includes recommendations aimed at addressing the needs of victims of Nepal’s prolonged civil war.
Expert: Susan Farbstein