Transitional justice: Origins and impact

Pierre Druart’s research project has two main aims: to decipher the philosophical foundations of transitional justice and to understand its impacts in the long term. To accomplish this, Druart will first analyse the moral, social, legal, philosophical and political underpinnings of punitive and restorative justice within transitional settings, tackling concepts such as “responsibility”, “punishment”, “forgiveness”, “truth”, and “reconciliation”, as well as the “peace vs. justice” debate. Second, he will go through all of the internationally recognized transitional justice mechanisms that have been enacted to date to solidify his understanding of each mechanism and the context within which it has been employed. Third, his research will zoom in on the Nuremberg trials and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the vanguards of, respectively, punitive and restorative justice. He then intends to put his theoretical findings to the test by taking a closer look at the impact these mechanisms have had on people on the ground – the victims, perpetrators and other actors, as well as members of ensuing generations that have followed up on them.

Bearing in mind that mass atrocities continue to occur and will require the creation of other transitional justice mechanisms, Druart ultimately aims to understand the impacts, in the long run, of having opted for a punitive or restorative approach. He will draw on a number of resources to facilitate successful completion of this project. First is his education in legal philosophy and international law, which will allow him to grasp the philosophical foundations of transitional justice, as well as to gain an overview of the mechanisms already put into place. Second will be the setting at the MPI for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale (Germany), where he will develop the methodological skills to investigate empirically the impact transitional justice mechanisms can have on the people on the ground. And third, he will look to insights from memory studies to understand the long-term impact of these procedures.

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