CfP: Transitional justice – does it have a future?

IJTJ Special Issue 2015

The International Journal of Transitional Justice invites submissions for its 2015 special issue entitled ‘Transitional justice: does it have a future?’ to be guest edited by Professor Makau Mutua. Professor Mutua is Dean, SUNY Distinguished Professor, and the Floyd H. & Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. Previously, he was the Associate Director at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, and the Director of the Africa Project at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

He was appointed by the Government of Kenya as Chairman of the Task Force on the Establishment of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission, which recommended a truth commission for Kenya. He serves as the Chairman of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.

It has been more than a quarter of a century since transitional justice burst onto the global stage. Over the years it has come to be billed as a panacea for addressing deeply embedded social and political dysfunction after periods of mass repression and violence. Many theorists and policy makers have argued that it is a key bridge to sustainable peace, democracy, and human rights.

But the historical record is not clear about a direct causal relationship between transitional justice mechanisms and specific outcomes in post-conflict societies. In some cases, truth commissions, criminal prosecutions, and other transitional justice interventions appear to have given society a chance at a new and hopeful beginning. In others, conflicts have either re-emerged, or been exacerbated. Which begs the question – is transitional justice the appropriate vehicle for achieving these goals? If it does not always lead to positive outcomes, why not?

Are there conceptual problems and theoretical deficiencies in how we make sense of justice and transitions that account for the failures? Or is it the translation of transitional justice norms into practice that is wanting?

The big question that this special issue seeks to explore is this: does transitional justice have a future, given its mixed record?

This edition brings together scholars and actors engaged in the field of transitional justice to focus on the meaning of the concept, how its application has evolved, and whether it is sustainable as theory and praxis. How defined is the concept of transitional justice? What exactly does it entail and what does it seek to achieve? Are political democracy, the rule of law, and human rights – the pivots of liberalism – the desired end results implicit in transitional justice approaches? If so, why should liberalism be the germ of the new post-conflict society?

If transitional justice promotes liberalism, who gains and who loses if it succeeds? How would liberalism address deeply rooted cultural, colonial and ethnic rivalries and inequities? Would structures of deep inequity be vanquished by these norms? Or does this conception of transitional justice exacerbate conflicts as it seeks to transform societies? Who pays for transformation? What about market forces and norms – do they fuel or contain conflict?

If existing transitional justice concepts are inadequate to recover, or reclaim, societies sickened by violence and repression, are there other alternatives? If so, how do those alternatives compare with present conceptualizations of transitional justice? Should the term, transitional justice itself be discarded?

This special issue will openly tackle these questions through the eyes of both new and established voices, with a particular emphasis on thinkers and actors from the global South. It seeks contributions that are unbounded by existing thinking. The idea is to advance the debate on transitional justice by re-examining core assumptions and plowing new intellectual ground.

The deadline for submissions is 1 July 2014.

Papers should be submitted online from the IJTJ webpage at

For questions or further information, please contact the Managing Editor at

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