Research Handbook on Transitional Justice
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Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett and Dov Jacobs

Providing detailed and comprehensive coverage of the transitional justice field, this Research Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to explore how societies deal with mass atrocities after periods of dictatorship or conflict. Situating the development of transitional justice in its historical context, social and political context, it analyses the legal instruments that have emerged.
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Chapter 11: The role of local civil society in transitional justice

Hugo van der Merwe and Maya Schkolne


Transitional justice is an eclectic conceptual category with pertinence across society and over generations. It is thus sufficiently expansive so as to provide civil society the possibility to adapt its discourse and tools to idiosyncratic agendas and priorities. Although the approaches and outcomes have differed in each transitional society, local civil society in its multiple forms has energetically assumed this mantle. It has accordingly served to catalyze transitional justice processes, fulfill its developments and reinforce its mechanisms. As the international justice community has become engrossed with transitional justice, normative, political and pragmatic challenges related to its role have burgeoned. Local civil society has acted not only as an auxiliary element but also as an integral component in these processes, while also expressing its independent agenda. This chapter reflects on the forms of local civil society located within transitional justice and their concomitant functions, typically falling along a spectrum of liberal-legal international human rights on the one hand and peacebuilding and reconciliation on the other. It additionally considers the methods it employs, whether vis-à-vis pressure on or engagement with the state; building on the work of the state; filling the varied missing gaps; or developing alternative strategies. In doing so, it questions the inherent assumptions and shortcomings related to its role and the intersecting tensions and sources of strength spurred by the set of actors involved. Finally, this chapter provides opportunity to navigate a research agenda moving forward that takes into account the relevant debates. Civil society; civil society actors; role, function and limitations

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