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Transitional Justice Mechanisms

After a period of brutal conflict, a country and its people must move on from the violence and recover. To do so, post-conflict countries will often look back to identify the root causes of the violence, provide justice for victims, and generate ways to prevent future human rights abuses. Often, this is a difficult transition that involves a wide range of stakeholders and takes years to accomplish. Increasingly, human rights organizations and other groups have devoted themselves to the area of transitional justice, and in their efforts, have developed a number of effective mechanisms to address past crimes. Transitional justice is the process by which nations address past abuses and reform their society. Often, countries find it important to incorporate a number of different transitional justice mechanisms. The complex nature of human rights crises prove that dealing with only one factor of the past abuses will not bring about a peaceful transition or justice to the victims. Rather, a multitude of factors must be addressed.

There are many mechanisms that have been used throughout the world to bring about reform. Some of the most common transitional justice mechanisms have been to:

  • Try individuals in a court or war crimes tribunal for the crimes that they committed during the conflict. 
  • Remove those who violate human rights from office.
  • Offer reparations to individuals that suffered abuse. 
  • Establish truth and reconciliation commissions.
  • Promote public ownership of the process by conducting a wide consultation process, informing the public on the process through media, and facilitate brainstorming workshops for transitional justice mechanisms.  
  • Reform institutions that are corrupt or that practiced human rights abuses in the past.
  • Identify and promote structural change within corporate enterprises that benefited from collaboration with past dictatorships.
  • Have officials offer an acknowledgement of past abuses and an apology. 
  • Institute blanket amnesties.
  • Monitor judicial and governmental institutions in society.
  • Provide psychological support to survivors of human rights abuses and their perpetrators.
  • Promote civic education on transitional justice and human rights.
  • Provide disarmament and reintegration for ex-combatants.
  • Conduct cultural cleansing ceremonies or acts of artistic expressionism to promote reconciliation and reintegration of perpetrators and victims in society. 

Certain mechanisms and combinations of tactics are more effective in some countries than in others, depending on whether their history involved civil or international war, or a brutal leadership that tortured the population. Each country's experience with human rights abuses is different and its cultural context also causes variation in the transitional tactics employed.

This section provides a background and description of specific transitional mechanisms used by various countries in their process towards reconciliation.