*POSTPONED* Transitional justice in the absence of transition

Tine Destrooper will chair a panel during the 26th world congress of the International Political Science Association


In the past two decades, transitional justice (TJ) has quickly and convincingly emerged as the dominant paradigm to think about how societies can come to terms with legacies of large-scale violence and ensure accountability for crimes committed by predecessor regimes. Due to its popularity, the paradigm, concepts, and logic of TJ are today increasingly applied in settings that can hardly be called post-conflict or post-authoritarian. Both countries that are still in the thralls of a violent conflict (like Syria), as well as countries that are commonly referred to as established democracies (like Belgium or Denmark), are increasingly looking at TJ for inspiration about how to achieve peace or how to foster good governance in the face of latent conflicts and tensions, respectively. This turn to TJ principles in non-transitioning contexts is understandable: some of the difficulties that war-torn societies, post-conflict countries, and established democracies face are in several ways similar, especially when it comes to dynamics of polarization and othering, and the need for conflict transformation. Moreover, exchanging insights from TJ practice allows for cross-contextual good practice learning and tapping into the wealth of learned experiences of (often South-based) TJ practicing countries. This, in turn, offers opportunities for bi-directional lesson learning, when the insights from these non-transitioning societies enrich and improve existing TJ mechanisms, thus potentially rendering them more efficient. Also beyond this, the discourse of TJ can provide a flexible umbrella covering disparate, siloed fields of academic and policy-oriented inquiry, which could facilitate sharing data and re-imagining policy approaches to (latent) conflict transformation in various settings. Yet, the transposition of TJ concepts to non-transitioning settings is not without danger or challenges. Both at a conceptual and at a methodological level there are many potential pitfalls, and mainstreaming policies that were devised to be exceptional (such as amnesties or truth-telling), might have unforeseen effects. This panel is an attempt to explore both these opportunities and pitfalls from a conceptual, methodological and policy-oriented point of view. In doing so, it seeks to engage in a discussion about how we can make TJ more effective on the ground.

Date & Time

July 25, 2020



Organized by International Political Science Association