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Special Issue 2017 - Call for Papers

Beyond Borders: Regional Dimensions and Dynamics of Transitional Justice


The International Journal of Transitional Justice invites submissions for its 2017 special issue entitled ‘Beyond Borders: Regional Dimensions and Dynamics of Transitional Justice', to be guest edited by Pierre Hazan.

Dr. Hazan is an international expert on transitional justice and international criminal justice. He has collaborated with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and served as a UN expert with the special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights. He currently is a Special Advisor on Transitional Justice with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. His book, Judging War, Judging History: Behind Truth and Reconciliation, received the Georges Dreyfus Prize.

Historically, transitional justice has focused either on states dealing with legacies of past human rights violations or on international standards and good practices for dealing with those legacies, as embodied by the UN. Little attention has been paid to the regional dimensions of transitional justice, despite the fact that states tend to compensate for their weaknesses by strengthening regional institutions and empirical evidence that demonstrates these institutions’ importance.

In this Special Issue, we encourage new thinking on the concept of regionalism: What new purchase does this perspective bring to our understanding of transitional justice? Which factors shape regional institutions and how they are used? And how does regionalism shape transitional justice mechanisms?

From an institutional perspective, regional political bodies such as the African Union and the European Union, as well as regional courts such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, play a major role in norm and standard setting. They create new human rights instruments, set major judicial precedents and in some cases act as key donors.

Regional institutions’ importance is also increasing as regions often face transnational challenges, particularly in terms of human rights violations that cross borders, which cannot be addressed solely at the national level. This is even more the case for states that have split apart and where civil society organizations seek to establish regional mechanisms like truth commissions to deal with past crimes, as with the REKOM initiative in the former Yugoslavia.

At the same time, the very concept of a ‘region’ is subject to debate. From a societal and cultural perspective, the borders of a region are arbitrarily defined. Is Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa or the Balkans a region? Yet, the populations within a given region often share in common parts of their history (such as colonialism) and certain cultural elements (such as ubuntu) that may influence the way transitional justice tools in the region are shaped, addressed and marketed to them.

These commonalities may give rise to an emulation process, through which states import some of the transitional justice features adopted in other countries that are perceived as relevant to their national contexts, while contesting others. For example, is the hostility towards the International Criminal Court in Africa in part a result of past history, when law was used as an instrument of domination by colonial powers?

In short, from an institutional and a societal and cultural perspective, the way transitional justice interferes or interfaces with borders – by crossing or ignoring them or by being unable to do so – happens in multiple ways within Africa, the Americas and Europe, in the global North and South. But what does it mean for regions without such regional institutions, such as Asia and the Middle East? In these cases, is a regional transitional justice approach a pertinent category? If not, how do or should countries engage with transitional justice experiences beyond their borders?

We expect this Special Issue to yield divergent views on central questions that will enrich our understanding of and engagement with this critical topic. Below are some key questions we have identified, which are only illustrative and do not exhaust the range of issues that deserve greater attention:

  • Do regional political or judicial institutions play an important role in shaping transitional justice tools and, if so, do they contribute to a feeling of ownership in transitional societies?
  • Is transitional justice the product of Judeo-Christian culture, or is it universal? If it is universal, why does it appear to be less developed in the Middle East and North Africa and in Asia?
  • Is the need to deal with the violent past universal, or is it a reflection of western ethnocentrism?
  • Are there significant differences in approaches to transitional justice in different regions? If yes, what explains these differences?
  • Is the way in which transitional justice tools are used in different regions a reflection of specific regional challenges?
  • Can and should (official) regional truth commissions be created despite the political obstacles?
  • How should we understand the role of religion and religious leaders in transitional justice efforts in different regions?
  • How do national, regional and international contexts – legal, political, institutional or other – interact with transitional justice?
  • To what extent is the legacy of law in a given region the result of radically different historical experiences (for example, law being a tool for enforcing domination in the colonies), and how does this influence the possibilities of pursuing transitional justice?
  • To what extent is the European Union as a donor for transitional justice initiatives imposing a particular regional approach on recipient countries affected by different regional constraints?

The deadline for submissions is 1 July 2016.

Papers should be submitted online from the IJTJ webpage at www.ijtj.oxfordjournals.org.

For questions or further information, please contact the Managing Editor at ijtj@csvr.org.za.