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Off the beaten track: understanding victims’ participation trajectories in the DR Congo’s transitional justice ecology

Transitional Justice (TJ) as a set of mechanisms has been developed to address how societies can deal with legacies of large-scale conflict or massive human rights violations and find ways towards a more peaceful future. While initially developed for contexts in which a political transition had taken place, today transitional justice is increasingly implemented in contexts where no such transition has occurred. This destabilizes and challenges some of the working hypotheses of paradigmatic transitional justice, including the notion that transitional justice can be managed as a state-centric top-down process.

This research focuses specifically on how in a context like Eastern DR Congo a variety of actors mobilises elements of the Transitional Justice ‘toolkit’, even in the absence of a political transition and in a context of entrenched violence. This has generated a complex ecosystem of co-existing, intersecting and crosscutting TJ initiatives – standardized & informal, local & international, judicial & non-judicial – that jointly aim to foster justice.

Many of these initiatives have been framed using the rhetoric of transitional justice, and jointly, they make up a complex justice ecosystem. This research sets out to examine the nature and dynamics of this complex Transitional Justice ecosystem, as well as how victims of all types of violence in Eastern DRC interact with and navigate it. The project will shed light on how and why victims in a context of ongoing violence, create and navigate complex Transitional Justice ecologies to pursue justice and accountability.