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School of Law

Justice, reconciliation and reconstruction in post conflict societies

Course Code:
15PLAC123
Unit value:
1
Taught in:
Full Year

The course consists of a critical examination of the role of law and lawyers in relation to issues commonly arising in post-conflict societies, and in particular to ways of dealing with a legacy of conflict and human rights violations, including issues of accountability for past human rights abuses, redress for victims, reconciliation, and reconstruction of the legal order.

Prerequisites

Students taking this course must also take the half unit ‘International Criminal Law’ unless:
(i) They have previously taken a course in International Criminal Law; or
(ii) They have, in the opinion of the course convenor, acquired a satisfactory knowledge of International Criminal Law through legal practice or other work experience.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

Students will be introduced to the works of leading thinkers and writers on subjects covered by the course, so that they will become familiar with the major debates, and will consider country case studies and comparative and gender perspectives.

Through their own research for their essays students will be encouraged to explore areas of particular interest to them. they will be encouraged to participate actively in seminars, to develop their arguments and to male presentations in class.

Scope and syllabus

The course consists of a critical examination of the role of law and lawyers in relation to issues commonly arising in post-conflict societies, and in particular to ways of dealing with a legacy of conflict and human rights violations, including issues of accountability for past human rights abuses, redress for victims, reconciliation, and reconstruction of the legal order.

The below course outline fives further details of this course. there will be small variations annually, e.g. to introduce new country case studies, reflect legal developments,etc...

Term 1
  • Week 1 - Introduction: What issues does this course cover? We begin with a discussion of some of the issues arising from contemporary conflicts, based on a viewing of Sorious Samoura film: 'Out of Africa/ Cry Freedom'
  • Week 2 - In this class we continue our discussion of the nature, extent and causes of contemporary conflicts and establish and begin to examine our own preconceptions about some of the issues covered by the course. what are the possibilities for conflict prevention and conflict resolution and what actors/agents should be involved in such processes? What is a post-conflict society? What is the role of law in conflict resolution and post-conflict societies? What is 'justice', and is it always and everywhere the same? What is the relationship between justice and peace? What is 'reconciliation' and what is its relationship to  justice? What is 'reconstruction' and what does it have to do with law?
  • Week 3 - Retributive justice: the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg - a 'gold standard', or a 'beautiful idea murdered by a gang of ugly facts'?
  • Week 4 - Transitional justice: a 'special' kind of justice? Are ' Nuremberg trials' always either possible or appropriate? The dilemmas of weak democracies confronting past human rights violations: prosecutions, truth commissions and amnesties in Latin America
  • Week 5 - The response of the international human rights NGO community to the lived experience of human rights violations in Latin America : the battle against impunity. The invocation of international human rights law and the campaign for the International Criminal Court.
  • Week 6 - Reading week
  • Week 7 - Presentation by students on Latin American case studies, e.g. Chile, Argentina
  • Week 8 - Restorative justice I: South Africa after apartheid. A 'better way' of dealing with the past? Conditional amnesty, a more powerful TRC, a focus on reparation, restitution and reconciliation. Guest lecturer : Prof. john Daniel, former member if the Research Department of the South African TRC
  • Week 9 - Restorative justice II:South Africa after apartheid. A closer look at the South African experience.
  • Week 10 - Accountability in Africa: Was the South African TRC a breakthrough for Africa?
  • Week 11 - Rwanda: justice on the grass. How can impoverished countries with weak formal legal systems deal with the  past? Should the problem be left to the international community? Can 'traditional' approaches to dispute resolution, such as 'gacaca', be useful in post-conflict societies, or are they inappropriate and procedurally unfair responses, such as the UN-established International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda or the International Criminal Court( ICC)?
Term 2
  • Week 1 - International Criminal tribunals: what can we learn from the past? What can we expect from the ICC?
  • Week 2 - The ICC and conflict resolution: What impact can we expect the ICC to have on peace processes? Case study: Uganda/Sudan
  • Week 3 - Children in armed conflict: Children are affected by armed conflict in multiple ways. We focus particularly on how children who have become active participants in armed conflict should be treated in law. are child soldiers perpetrators, victims, or both? should they be prosecuted for war crimes?the Special Court for Sierra Leone has recently developed international law on this subject. Case study: Sierra Leone/Uganda
  • Week 4 - A week of review and discussion of accountability, justice and reconciliation issues and to begin discussion of the concepts of reconstruction, peace-building, nation-building and state-building.
  • Week 5 - 'Rebuilding' justice systems after conflict. The 'rule of law revival'
  • Week 6 - Reading week
  • Week 7 - Women and peace-building. S/C Res. 1325 Case study: Afghanistan
  • Week 8 - Constitutionalism, conflict resolution and nation-building
  • Week 9 - Land reform/restitution and reconciliation
  • Week 10 - Can 'nations' be 'built'?  By whom? Can the causes of internal conflict be effectively tackled through law?
  • Week 11 - Round-up and review

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 100% coursework (one essay of 10,000 words)

Coursework may be resubmitted