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LAWS3094 Transitional Justice: Law, War and Crime

Module Overview

‘Transitional Justice’ explores how societies emerging from periods of civil conflict or authoritarian rule deal with the past.; in particular, how justice can be achieved in such situations. The module considers the impact of transitional justice mechanisms, legal and non-legal, developed with the aim of realizing peace and security in post-conflict states.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

to provide you with an opportunity to engage in detailed analysis of the emerging field of ‘transitional justice’, exploring how this concept has been employed within post-conflict settings to deal with serious acts of individual and communal violence. You will develop a critical awareness of the various legal, social and political strategies and mechanisms that have been embraced to deal with the dilemmas of societies emerging from violent conflict and/or authoritarian rule as well as the challenges that may be encountered when participating in peace operations. The module will also provide an opportunity to apply this legal and structural knowledge to analysis of contemporary situations of armed conflict and transition.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • explaining the development of transitional justice principles from international law and the role of transitional justice mechanisms as complementary to international criminal justice;
  • identifying the different theories underlying transitional justice;
  • explaining the rationales underpinning the various responses of the international community towards post- conflict transition of domestic communities;
  • identifying transitional justice mechanisms and processes through practical case examples and broad theories;
  • relating the concept of transitional justice to other peace-building activities and explain the role of transitional justice mechanisms in peace-building contexts;
  • identifying key challenges and best practices within transitional justice.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate critical awareness of the relationships between transitional justice principles and mechanisms and international law and international criminal justice;
  • analyse the fundamental claims and concepts of key theoretical perspectives on transitional justice;
  • critically evaluate various transitional justice mechanisms and the ways in which these have been implemented, nationally and internationally, in light of stated objectives of truth, reconciliation and justice;
  • evaluate various transitional justice mechanisms in relation to other peace-building activities;
  • demonstrate practical awareness of key challenges and best principles by developing a model of transitional justice for a country of your choice.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • locate and analyse relevant primary and secondary resources, together with relevant historical, philosophical and political materials;
  • identify and summarise different types and forms of argument;
  • deploy analytic and evaluative skills in relation to complex situations to construct a coherent and reasoned argument, orally and in writing;
  • exercise initiative and responsibility to conduct a piece of independent research.


The topics covered in the module will include: • historical and legal background - causes and consequences of conflict - war and human rights - international humanitarian law and armed conflict • theoretical perspectives: concepts and dilemmas - origins and development of ‘transitional justice’ - individual responsibility vs collective guilt - memory, narrative and identity - restorative vs retributive justice - juridification of war - gendering of war - genocide • approaches, mechanisms and institutions - truth commissions - prosecutions - reparations - ad hoc tribunals - hybrid tribunals - International Criminal Court - war crimes trials and political trials - show trials • case studies and case histories; for example, - South Africa - Rwanda - Sierra Leone - Democratic Republic of Congo - Ethiopia - Sudan - Northern Ireland - Australia - Former Republic of Yugoslavia - 9/11 and its aftermath: the ‘global war on terror’ • transitional justice, peace-building and peace-keeping - the role of the United Nations and the UN Secretary-General - security and development - other agencies • trends, challenges and opportunities - justice vs peace - pursuit of accountability - human rights and humanitarian law obligations

Special Features

The module is taught and assessed through the integration of lecture/seminar and tutorial classes in relation to the construction of a portfolio summative assignment, which is submitted at the end.of the teaching period.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module is taught by means of a weekly 2-hour seminar/lecture and four 1-hour feedback tutorials. You will be expected to have read/watched all materials/media assigned for a particular class and, where appropriate, to take a full part in discussions about them. Preparation for and participation in the seminars and tutorials will develop: • the knowledge required to satisfactorily achieve the stated module learning outcomes • your ability to challenge widely held assumptions about law and legal decision making and how these impact on legal practice; • your ability to assess and comment critically on the effectiveness of others’ legal argument and to discuss and defend your own argument; • your ability to engage effectively with key legal and socio-legal research skills • your organisational and time management skills

Preparation for scheduled sessions66
Wider reading or practice10
Completion of assessment task50
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

W. A. Schabas (2009). Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes. 

E. Stover and H. M. Weinstein (eds.) (2004). My Neighbor, My Enemy: Justice and Community in the Aftermath of Mass Atrocity. 

N. Roht-Arriaza and J. Marriezcurrena (eds.) (2006). Transitional Justice in the Twenty-first Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice. 

E. Barkan and A. Karn (2006). Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation. 

C. L. Sriram, O. Martin-Ortega and J Herman (2010). War, Conflict and Human Rights: Theory and Practice. 

S. Totten and P. R. Bartrop (eds.) (2009). The Genocide Studies Reader. 

P. B. Hayner (2001). Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity: How Truth Commissions Around the World are Challenging the Past and Shaping the Future. 

G. Simpson (2007). Law, War and Crime. 

R. Teitel (2000). Transitional Justice. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Portfolio  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Portfolio  (5000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Portfolio  (5000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate. However, there is no set book for this module that you will be required to buy.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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