Post conflict communities and transitional justice

In periods of political transition – that means during the change from authoritarian dictatorial regimes or from civil conflicts to a democracy, from violence and repression to societal stability – it is essential to provide the possibility to follow up abuses of human rights by criminal and legal prosecution. The origins of Transitional Justice dating back to the post World War II period (International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg), these approaches are in the meantime clearly determined by international human rights law. Transitional Justice is now highlighted by the many efforts to bring perpetrators to justice both under national and international law. These processes are important not only from a legal point of view, but have important repercussions on (mental) health and coping after periods of unrest, injustice and violence.

This thematic page includes some useful links in relation to Post conflict communities and transitional justice.

Legal Documents
Post-conflict communities and Transitional Justice – some examples in reality
Reparation and individuals’ mental health recovery
Handbooks and Guides
Post-conflict communities, transitional justice and gender
Post-conflict communities, transitional justice and children
Evaluation of transitional justice
Organisations, Institutions and Sites

Legal Documents

Here we find some important resolutions and declarations on this topic, worked out during the past years. They represent the most essential framework, implemented already in lots of countries and courtyards in different settings, and to be implemented furthermore in more national panels.

  • Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
    The International Criminal Court was founded to “be a permanent institution and shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern...and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions”. We find here the complete statute as entered into force 1.7.2002.
  • Human Rights Resolution: 2004/34
    “The right to restitution, compensation and rehabilitation for victims of grave violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, High Commissioner of Human Rights 2004
  • Human Rights Resolution 2005/35
    “Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law”. Legal framework of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2005, following amongst others the specifications of resolution 2004/34

  • UN resolution A/RES/40/34
    UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power from 1985.
  • Guide for policymakers
    This handbook (51 p.) outlines the UN declaration of Basis Principles of Justice 40/34, with advice and guidance how that can be pursued. – United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, UNODCCP 1999.
  • Handbook on Justice for Victims
    This represents a detailed handbook (133 p)which tries to explain the “use and application” of the UN declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime and abuse of power from 1985. This is based on the conviction that victims should be treated with compassion and respect, and that they are entitled to prompt redress through access to the criminal justice system. - UNODCCP 1999
  • Declaration of Cooperation - Mental health of refugees, displaced and other populations affected by conflict and post-conflict situations.
    This WHO-declaration is intended to serve as a working instrument, providing framework to achieve consensus and cooperation. - WHO, 2001.
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Post-conflict communities and Transitional Justice – some examples in reality

The implementation of transitional justice in international law, and the increased consciousness on this topic made it possible that during the past years tribunals could be established in the aftermath of (civil) wars and armed conflict. Here we are listing some web-sites and literature which give an overview over some examples.

  • Progress of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
    Overview of the proceedings of the ECCC, the hybrid tribunal created in 2006 to try senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge and those "most responsible" for the crimes that took place. The court has five suspects in custody and has almost completed its first trial which began in March of 2009 The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) March 2009.
  • Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO)
    TPO Cambodia is a Cambodian NGO that works in the field of mental health and psychosocial interventions. It is TPO’s mission “to support those who are unable to care for themselves due to mental illness, poverty and lack of support by developing programmes that directly benefit people at the grassroots level, by improving their mental health and thereby increase their ability to care for themselves and their families.
  • Exhumation of Mass Graves in Iraq - Considerations for Forensic Investigations, Humanitarian Needs, and the Demands of Justice
    This brief (5 p.) article highlights the problems to provide controlled exploration and examination of mass graves in Iraq, during ongoing war/conflict and no officially established crime court. Important consideration, although maybe some outdated by newer history and development in Iraq. Eric Stover, William D. Haglund, Margaret Samuels, JAMA august 2003
  • Accountability in Argentina
    This articles outlines (10 p.)the significant ongoing changes in Argentinia, regarding the investigation and prosecution of human rights violations that occurred from 1976 to 1983. - International Center for Transitional Justice, august 2005
  • Nepali Voices: Perceptions of Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, Reparations and the Transition in Nepal
    In this book (66 p) we find a summary of a study The Internat. Center for Transitional Justice together with the Advocacy Forum had carried out during 2007. It was about the victims` perception of issues such as truth, justice, reparations, reconciliation, and the general transition in Nepal. The conclude with some advice and policy recommandations. – Intern. Center for Transitional Justice, march 2008
  • Conflict, Disaster, Homicide - Mental health reform in post-conflict areas: a policy analysis based on experiences in Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo
    Here we find an analysis (6 p.) of the process of implanting a mental health reform and the difficulty of sustaining such a reform in post-conflict areas. The analysis is based on experiences in Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo, back to the time following the end of the armed conflict in 1995/99. - Albert K. De Vries, Niek S. Klazinga, European Journal of Public Health 2006.
  • Providing Reparation and Treatment, Preventing Impunity
    A booklet (33 p.) which contains the abstracts of papers, panel discussion and poster presentation from the IRCT internat. Symposium on Torture, 2006.
  • Liberia – War-battered nation launches truth commission
    A report on the implementation of a truth and reconciliation commission the Liberian government has launched, to probe human rights abuses in the past. – IRIN news, UN Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2006.
  • Truth Commission: Sierra Leone
    This report is a brief summary of truth commission in Sierra Leone; it provides useful information on conclusions, recommendations and subsequent developments. USIP- United States Institute of Peace
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Interim Report
    This interim report covers the activities of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on traumatized Aboriginal people who forcibly were assimilated into the Canadian mainstream by eliminating parental and community involvement in the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual development of Aboriginal children The report summarizes: the activities of the Commissioners, the Commission’s interim findings, the Commission’s recommendations.
  • The Iran Tribunal Holds Truth Commission In London
    The site is intended to be a brief sketch of the method by which an investigation of the gross human rights violations committed by the Islamic Regime of Iran in the 1980’s will take place.
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Reparation and individuals’ mental health recovery

Here we have a collection of sites and articles working and reflecting on the topics of and connection between reparation, (mental) health recovery and reconstruction of socioeconomic stability.

  • Mental Health Disabilities and Post-Conflict Economic and Social Recovery
    This article (6 p.) deals with the consequences of conflict and trauma in developing countries. The interactions between mental health and socioeconomic functioning which are very complex are discussed. The causations run both ways, mental health disabilities affect socioeconomic recovery, and instability in this field affects the possibilities to recover mentally.- Robert J. Muscat, Global Peace Services USA, 2006
  • Mental health promotion in post-conflict countries
    The situation of mental health, and in a broader sense concerning psychiatric problems in (post-) conflict zones and countries are discussed, here with special interest in Eastern Mediterranean region countries being in conflict during the last two decades. Six different levels of intervention are presented. Useful overview(3 p.) - Neill Ghosh et al,JRSH 2004.
  • Some perspectives on torture victims, reparation and mental recovery.
    This article provides a great overview target group: people working with reparations on professional level over issues related to the pursuit of reparation by torture-victims and their family members. It discusses also how successfully reparations can be implemented nationally, as well as forms of reparation, and the effects on reparation on coping-skills. - Paul Dalton, 2002, article2, publ by the Asian Legal Resource Center ALRC
  • Rehabilitation as a form of reparation under international law
    This article (65 p.) discusses various aspects in rehabilitation and redress/reparation, why this concept seems to be still elusive, and the international lack of agreement. Useful and detailed overview. Target group: people working with reparations on professional level . - Dr. Clara S.Villalba, REDRESS, 2009
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa: relation to psychiatric status and forgiveness among survivors of human rights abuses
    This article is an abstract of the examination of the degree to which participation in the TRC is related to the current psychiatric status and forgiveness among survivors. Debra Kaminer et al, British Journal of Psychiatry, 2001
  • Symbolic closure through memory, reparation and revenge in post-conflict societies
    Here the connection between truth commissions and beneficial psychological consequences is discussed, as well as the terms reconciliation, retribution and the individual process of healing work. Target group: professionals in working with reparation. - Brandon Hamber, Richard Wilson, Journal of Human Rights, 2002
  • Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Paradise Lost or Pragmatism?
    In this article (12 p.) we find lots of considerations and thoughts on the concepts of forgiveness and reconciliation. Previously the domain of philosophers and theologians the have become more integrated in discussion on political transition. Specially in societies coming out of conflict these topics are complex and difficult in discussion. - Brandon Hamber, Journal of Peace Psychology, 2007
  • Post-Conflict Peacebuilding : Meeting Human Needs for Justice and Reconciliation
    A paper about 24 p., the author arguing that both justice and reconciliation are fundamentally significant goals, needed to be addressed in the design of successful peacebuiling processes (especially in the aftermath of genocide). Reconciliation is important as a means to conflict resolution and transformation. - Wendy Lambourne, april 2004
  • Trauma and Transitional Justice in Divided Societies
    Special Report (12 p.) after a 3-day-conference about this topic, organized by the UN-institute of Peace. – Judy Barsalou, USIP, 2005.
  • Ignoring cries for justice, South Africa fails victims of Apartheid era crimes
    The article emphasizes on the important role of government to secure and support the TRC’s recommendations otherwise “survivors lack the means to deal with material and psychological consequences of apartheid violence, and must face enormous hurdles to have their demands heard”. Contains a rhighly relevant intervju with ICTJ Senior Program Adviser Howard Varney, a practicing advocate at the Johannesburg Bar, who worked with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and continues to represent victims of past conflicts in the courts of South Africa to vindicate their rights. ICTJ
  • Remembering to Forget: Issues to Consider when Establishing Structures for Dealing with the Past
    In this article Brandon Hamber sheds the light on some ways to ease the process of dealing with the past, these include the establishment of official, socially recognised and creatively composed bodies.
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Handbooks and Guides

It is well known that survivors of war, conflict and disaster need to be attended not only for their own healing process, but also because that healing is necessary to social reconstruction. Also transitional justice – to establish this social reconstruction furthermore - itself can be the beginning of a healing process, because just the fact to be heard can be essential. Here we tried to collect some handbooks which additional to general outlines focus on this side of transitional justice.

  • Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities
    The Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities (264 p.)is a guide for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and partner staff in the field to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate repatriation and reintegration activities. – UNHCR, 2004
  • The Law and Practice of Rehabilitation in Domestic Administrative Reparation Programmes’
    The Essex Transitional Justice Network at the University of Essex, the American Society of International Law Interest Group on Transitional Justice and the Rule of Law, and the Clemens Nathan Research Centre, Second International Conference 2012
  • Mental Health Policy, Plans and Programmes
    This paper (120 p.) represents a great collection of service guides and packages concerning various themes within the topic “mental health policy”. Here we find also mental health legislation and human rights, as well as advocacy and organization. - WHO 2004
  • Reconciliation after Violent Conflict; A Handbook
    This handbook discusses the demand of better tools to address the subject of reconciliation, and the challenges of democratization after violent conflicts. Target group: (legal) professionals working with reconciliation. - International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance IDEA 2003, David Bloomfield, Teresa Barnes and Luc Huyse.
  • Psychosocial Healing - A Guide for Practitioners
    This guide (126 p.)provides a great overview over the topic psychosocial trauma healing in post-conflict social reconstruction. It is given a description of stress-/trauma-symptoms, offering exercises turned out to be useful, guidelines to set up training settings for survivors, all with the insight that healing is necessary to social reconstruction. Target group: clinicians. - Medical Network for Social Reconstruction in the Former Yugoslavia, 2003.
  • Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction
    This is a very detailed book (244 p.) containing almost all approaches within the challenge to help in the aftermath of war, conflict or disaster to develop a stabile community (unfortunately no focus in special on mental health). – United States Institute of Peace, 2009./
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Post-conflict communities, transitional justice and gender

It is widely recognized that women (and so far also young people) are often primary victims of conflict. During war, women are displaced, subjected to sexual violence, and assume the caretaking role for children and the elderly. They are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, sexual slavery, disease, and forced recruitment into armed groups. Yet as the survivors of violent conflict, women also bear the burden of reconstruction. They return to destroyed communities and begin the process of rebuilding infrastructure, restoring and developing traditions, laws, and customs, and repairing relationships. They hold in a way the “leadership” in a transitional period. hold in a way the “leadership” in a transitional period. Therefore it is just important to have a special focus on women when discussing transitional justice.

  • The Role of Women in Stabilization and Reconstruction
    This report (24 p.) summarizes the challenges in supporting women in the process of transitional justice, also focusing on the important role women play here. There are also suggestions how to implement solutions. – United States Institute of Peace, 2006.
  • ICTJ’s gender justice program
    Short overview over the project on gender and reparations, ICTJ presents and is holding on with. – Internat. Center for Transitional Justice ICTJ, 2013.
  • Truth Commissions and Gender: Principles, Policies, and Procedures
    This book (352 p.) presents an overview over the topic as well as some case-studies (South Africa, Guatemala, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste). We find examples of “first positive practices of incorporating gender thinking into transitional justice measures and processes”, and it states how peace building and reconciliation, development in the aftermath of violence can be supported by gender-sensitive planning and policy. Target Group: professionals. - Social Science Research Council, SSRC 2006.
  • Truth commissions and gender: A South African case study
    South Africa’s gendered past was never substantially addressed by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) despite attempts by women’s groups to ensure its inclusion. - Ayumi Kusafuka, ICTJ 2008
  • On the issues: Women, Conflict and Peacebuilding
    Presentation of some programs and funds USIP is taking care of. The institute strives to encourage more practice and scholarly work on women, and seeks to deepen understanding of the role of women in conflict and peace. – United States Institute of Peace USIP, 2010

Post-conflict communities, transitional justice and children

Children are among those most affected during war, armed conflict, disaster - and in many instances they have been targeted for killings, disappearances, under-age recruitment, sexual violence, torture and other grave violations of their fundamental rights. Fortunately there is a growing global consensus on the need for accountability mechanisms to address human rights violations committed during armed conflict, including a specific focus on crimes against children. Accountability in post-conflict situations fulfils a number of important functions. The investigation and documentation of violations committed can help to restore confidence in the rule of law and raise public awareness of the impacts of conflict on children. When accountability is combined with processes of reconciliation, it can help to break the cycle of violence and strengthen the legitimacy and authority of the new government. It may also contribute to the process of healing and provide a foundation and framework for a more stable and just society and democratic institutions. Having been witnesses and victims of the crimes of war, children have a key role in addressing those crimes and in reconciliation and peace-building processes in their communities. Children and adolescents contribute a tremendous pool of capacity, energy, ideas and creativity, and as countries emerge from societal or political violence, that vital human resource is urgently needed.

  • Children and transitional justice
    This website provides a great overview on this topic, with links highlighting all the different challenges when trying to address human rights violations especially in children. Target group: mostly professionals working on this subject, but also interested clients. – UNICEF, Innocenti Resource Center, 2010
  • Children and transitional justice - Truth-Telling, Accountability and Reconciliation
    This great book (445 p.) provides a great overview over this broad topic. It outlines the necessity to focus especially on children as innocent victims, and the problems in the aftermath of disaster to establish justice. Also in this book we find several examples from recent years where f.e. truth commissions could be established (South Africa, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Liberia, Peru). Target group: mostly professionals working on this subject, but also interested clients.– UNICEF IRC together with Human Rights Program / Havard Law School, 2010
  • Children and transitional justice
    Some thoughts about background of the topic, challenges and opportunities. - Internat.Center for transitional justice, ICTJ.
  • Children and The Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Sierra Leone
    Recommendations for policies and procedures for addressing and involving children in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
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Evaluation of transitional justice

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Organisations, Institutions and Sites

  • Redress
    ”Ending torture, seeking justice for survivors” – REDRESS is a human rights organization that helps torture survivors obtain justice and reparation. Redress works with survivors to help restore their dignity and to make torturers accountable.
  • The International Criminal Court
    Collection of all topics concerning international law, links to legal texts and tools.
  • United States Institute of Peace
    USIP provides with lots of information not only on transitional justice, but also on different other related topics.
  • International Center for Transitional Justice
    The International Center for Transitional Justice works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies
  • Website of Brandon Hamber
    Professor Brandon Hamber is Director of the International Conflict Research Institute, a clinical psychologist his work focuses on the psychological implications of strategies for dealing with a violent political past (truth commissions, reconciliation, truth recovery processes etc). The website collects lots of informations and links concerning Transitional Justice and related topics.
  • The Inter-American Court of Human Rights
    This Court is located in Costa Rica, an autonomous judicial institution of the Organization of American States, established in 1979.
  • The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
  • The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR)
    CSVR works to prevent violence in all its forms, heal its effects, and build sustainable peace and reconciliation in South Africa and internationally.
  • African Transitional Justice Research Network
    This network seeks to promote and encourage transitional justice research in Africa. The goal is to ensure that the transitional justice agenda in Africa is locally informed and owned.
  • Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations
    Under the United States Institute of peace, a special site just concerning this topic. Useful links and publications.
  • Transitional Justice Forum
    Resources and multi-disciplinary discussion on the challenge of justice during transitions to a better world.
  • The Transitional Justice Institute / University of Ulster
    A leading center in developing the field of transitional justice, the study of law in societies emerging from conflict.
  • Transicional Justice Observatory
    Compilation of different cases of transitional justice processes undertaken by states that have undergone an armed conflict and aim at building peace while demanding accountability from those responsible for human rights violations committed in the past.

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