Transitional Justice: (Re)Conceptualising the Field

Christine Bell, Colm Campbell, Fionnula Ní Aoláin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transitional justice discourse is generally accepted as having its foundations located in the theoretical, policy and practical implications of dealing with past human rights violations in societies that have experienced either repressive politics or violent conflict. Many theorists and policy-makers resolutely assume or defend the notion that ‘dealing with the past’ is where the debates about, and contribution of, the transitional justice paradigm uniquely lie. Understood in this way, transitional justice as a field of study has grown exponentially, comprising theoretical debates, the comparative assessment of domestic accountability schemes, international criminal justice, the study of truth commissions, and ethical-legal debate concerning the morality of compromise on accountability for gross and systematic violations of human rights.
This foreword, building on the previous work of its authors,3 extends and expands our contention that transitional justice in this narrow sense must be located in a broader and more problematised understanding of justice in contemporary transitions. We also use the opportunity provided by this symposium to highlight an expansion of conceptual horizons being carried out at the Transitional Justice Institute (University of Ulster), and the innovative approach to the transitional justice field being advanced by a group of diverse inter-disciplinary scholars. The approach advocates both drawing on other disciplines, and firmly supporting parallel disciplinary fields to work alongside a legal research agenda; affirming the importance of rigorous cross-jurisdictional comparisons; and utilising empirical and socio-legal methodology to advance legal inquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-88
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Law in Context
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


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