Given the extent and persistence of atrocities (e.g., genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, terrorism), it is extremely important, relevant, and appropriate to study “Transitional Justice.” Transitional Justice refers to both the process and objectives of societies employing judicial and/or non-judicial mechanisms to address past or even ongoing atrocities and other serious human rights violations. The tools available (e.g., prosecution, amnesty, truth commission, exile) to those seeking and implementing Transitional Justice are numerous and varied. In addition, the tense and shifting international landscape has both promoted and impaired international cooperation regarding these important issues, as many members of the international community have agreed in principle that they must individually and collectively do more to prevent and stop atrocities, but have disagreed about how to accomplish that goal in practice.
This course provided students with an introduction to the field of Transitional Justice, with a specific focus on sub-Saharan Africa. The course presented the major concepts, objectives, options, and tensions of Transitional Justice, and other issues historically and currently animating the field. These issues include the origins, operations, successes, failures, problems, and potential of Transitional Justice. Through analysis of key case studies, students learned why, how, and when various Transitional Justice mechanisms have been pursued and will compare their designs and evaluate their benefits and drawbacks. The course covered some material beyond sub-Saharan Africa to provide a more complete historical and comparative consideration of Transitional Justice.