Research Handbook on International Human Rights Law
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Research Handbook on International Human Rights Law

Edited by Sarah Joseph and Adam McBeth

This innovative and timely Handbook brings together the work of 25 leading human rights scholars from all over the world to consider a broad range of human rights topics.
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Chapter 11: The Four Pillars of Transitional Justice: A Gender-Sensitive Analysis

Ronli Sifris


Ronli Sifris 1 What is transitional justice? A A general definition The term ‘transitional justice’ refers to a holistic, restorative approach to justice which applies in the context of societies confronting a legacy of systematic or widespread human rights abuse. It is an approach to justice which seeks to balance the need for accountability and for recognition of victims’ suffering with the desire to achieve a lasting peace and true reconciliation. The types of transitions which a society may undergo differ according to the particular context. Transitional justice has traditionally been understood as applying to countries transitioning from an authoritarian, violent past to a democratic, non-violent future. Examples of such transitions include those of many Latin American countries from military to civilian rule.1 However, the term may also be used to refer to ‘conflicted democracies’; ‘[i]n this context, the transition becomes one of: (a) from procedural to substantive democracy, or at least involving a deepening of substantive democracy, and (b) from violence to peace.’2 One example of this is the Northern Ireland transition.3 There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to transitional justice. While generalizations can be made in terms of what is necessary to institute a comprehensive transitional justice process, ultimately each society confronting a legacy of human rights abuses is different from other societies which have also had to deal with such a past. Thus while there will be common elements in the construction of a path towards justice and reconciliation, the individual nature of a...

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