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Scoping Study: Transitional Justice Practice: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Impunity Watch is pleased to announce the publication of a new research report entitled “Transitional Justice Practice: Looking Back, Moving Forward.” Authored by Vasuki Nesiah, and produced with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the scoping study offers a critical review of the historical development of transitional justice practice up until the present, in which it has increasingly come to suffer under what could be qualified as a crisis of legitimacy and effectiveness. The study argues that this crisis has been fed by the failure of transitional justice to open up the hierarchies of power to accountability in most contexts where it has been applied. Often, transitional justice processes left perpetrators untouched, the structures of impunity intact and root causes of violence unaddressed. In part, this has occurred because the field has operated as if it were a sphere of technical engagement rather than a political intervention grappling with contextual imperatives.

The study shows that, in contrast, transitional justice processes have been most effective and their impact most sustainable when these emerged from local social movements, and actors embedded in social movements and victims communities took on leading roles. In order to move forward and reinvigorate transitional justice practice, there is a need for approaches that centre on transitional justice as a transformative political instrument, and that functions close to local actors and bottom-up processes. This requires the rethinking of dominant technical approaches, drawing inspiration from the experimental ethos that has been an important part of the historical development of transitional justice as a field of practice.

Download the publication here.