Transitional Justice

The course examines a set of extraordinary state responses that aim to restore rule of law in societies emerging from violent, usually undemocratic pasts.

The task of upholding rule of law and ensuring that human rights of individuals are not violated, especially in times of strife and conflict, is widely considered the responsibility of the modern state. This course examines state responses to unprecedented violence, mass atrocities and violations of human rights. It studies a wide range of mechanisms for establishing accountability for past violations, most of which evolved in the aftermath of World War II, including traditional methods of criminal prosecution (the role of international ad-hoc tribunals and the permanent International Criminal Court), demands for reparation, and the more recent truth commissions. Apart from individual complicity, it also assesses efforts to rebuild civic trust in the state through legal and institutional reform and reconciliation among conflicting communities.

A correspondingly large number of post-conflict countries like Germany, Eastern Europe,
Argentina, Colombia, Rwanda, South Africa, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and
Myanmar will feature in class discussions, whether grounded in the readings or otherwise.
The course emphasises critical engagement with the tools of transitional justice, asking
questions such of the appropriateness, sufficiency and efficiency of state response in each
case. As traditional scholarship views transitional justice in terms of political transition, we
will also consider if the international case-studies have lessons for post-conflict
peacebuilding and reconciliation in divided societies in South Asia, particularly India. Finally, students will be encouraged to consider if legal mechanisms can at all assist in achieving peace, truth, justice or reconciliation, or if these goals may sometimes be antithetical. This course will be useful for those interested in international relations, human rights, public international law and policy analysis. Knowledge of international law is not a prerequisite for the course.