Transitional justice and democratic change: Key concepts

AuthorElena Andreevska
PositionPhD, SEE-University, Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia
LESIJ NO. XX, VOL. 1/2013
This Article proposes a genealogy of transitional justice and focuses on transitional justice as one of
the key steps in peace building that needs to be taken to secure a stable democratic future. Transitional
justice is a response to systematic or widespread violations of human rights. It seeks recognition for victims
and promotion of possibilities for peace, reconciliation and democracy. The paper focuses on key concepts
of transitional justice before addressing its traditional components: justice, reparation, truth and
institutional reform. This Article meeting point on the transitional process in a society which has
experienced a violent conflict and needs adequate mechanisms to deal with the legacies of the past in order
to prevent future violence and cover the way for reconciliation and democratic consolidation. It provides
key stakeholders with an overview of transitional justice and its different components, while examining key
challenges faced by those working in this area. The present paper concludes with some remarks that
challenge the traditional concept of transitional justice and its processes in order to initiate important
debate on where future work in this field is needed.
Keywords: Transitional justice, democracy, human rights, institutional reforms, democratic
The presumption in much of what has been said about transitional justice is that we can
speak in general terms about these real -world practices. Some commentators have spoken
explicitly of one common theory of transitional justice.
1 These generalizations concern the
dilemmas of dealing with massive human rights abuses and ways to assess and evaluate the
practices utilized when confronting such legacies of violence and injustice. Nonetheless, in a
diverse world one risk of constructing a general theory is that it can lack sensitivity to different
and nuanced circumstances. In particular, it is problematic to utilize a common normative
framework that presupposesă theă liberală democratică natureă ofă ană incomingă regime,ă oră law’să
ability to generally further such values. While some case studies of transitional justice have
argued that law can also serve to restrict democratization,2 and while objectives such. As
reconciliation,ă peace,ă andă victims’ă healingă areă nowă increasinglyă examinedă ină theă generală
literature3, the fac t remains that the scholarship is dominated by the co nception that transitional
PhD, SEE-University, Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia (email:
1 See Riti G. Teitel, Transitional Justice (Oxford University Press, 2000): 213.
2 SeeăBrianăGrodsky,ă“Justiceă withoutăTransition:TruthăCommissionsăinătheă ContextăofăRepres siveăRule”,8ă
HUM. RTS. L. REV, (2008): 218.
3 See, Ibid., Supra 1; Carlos Nino, Radical Evil on Trial (Yale University Press,1996); Neil J Krotz:
Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes: Country Studies (US
Institute of Peace Press,1995); and James McAdams: Transitional Justice and the Rule of Law in New
Democracies (University of Notre Dame Press, 1997).

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