Transitional justice is  a  an approach to achieving fairness or just treatment during the turn around from  conflict and/or state repression to one where justice is being pursued.  In attempting  to achieve the state’s accountability and the redressing of victims rights.   Indeed, transitional justice affords victims a recognition of their  rights.  It also  promotes strengthens the rule of law and  encourages civic trust in the government.

The importance of transitional law has to do with the aftermath of the human rights abuses. Indeed, victims of human rights violations, have very valid reasons to see the perpetrators of the crimes against the victims punished, to know the truth, and to receive reparations.  An example of the above is the Government of Germany’s post-Holocaust treatment. 

 

Because human rights violations affect not just the direct victims, but also the society as a whole, in addition to satisfying these obligations, states have duties to guarantee that the violations will not recur, and therefore, a special duty to reform institutions that were either involved in or incapable of preventing the abuses.

Moreover, a history of unaddressed abuses is likely to be extremely socially divisive; to generate mistrust between groups; and in the institutions of the State, and to hamper or slow down the achievement of security and development goals. It raises questions about the commitment to the rule of law and, ultimately, can lead to cyclical recurrence of violence in various forms.

As it is seen in most countries where immense human rights violations take place, the claims of justice refuse to ‘go away.’

There are a number of elements of a  Transitional Justice Policy

The different elements of a transitional justice policy are not parts of a random list, but rather, are related to one another practically and conceptually. The core elements are:

  • Criminal prosecutions, particularly those that address perpetrators considered to be the most responsible.

  • Reparations, through which governments recognize and take steps to address the harms suffered. Such initiatives often have material elements (such as cash payments or health services) as well as symbolic aspects (such as public apologies or day of remembrance).

  • Institutional reform of abusive state institutions such as armed forces, police and courts, to dismantle—by appropriate means—the structural machinery of abuses and prevent recurrence of serious human rights abuses and impunity.

  • Truth commissions or other means to investigate and report on systematic patterns of abuse, recommend changes and help understand the underlying causes of serious human rights violations.

This is not a complete list, since various countries have added other measures. These include memory, including such institutions as Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., films both fiction and non-fiction, authoring books and scholarly articles, renaming public structure as well as other symbolic initiatives.  Indeed, these efforts and others have become important pieces in the transitional justice milieu around the world.

Despite the fact that transitional justice measures rest on solid legal and moral obligations, there is wide latitude as to how these obligations can be satisfied, and accordingly there is no formula to fit all situations.

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