SOAS University of London

Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy

International Politics of Transitional Justice

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/23

This course looks at the international and domestic politics of accountability for mass atrocities, authoritarian legacies and state repression. It situates the study of international, global and regional institutions and practices, and also individual cases, in the scholarly literature on transitional justice, human rights, and norms that has emerged across the disciplines of political science (and international relations) especially, but also law, anthropology, and sociology. We begin by studying the decision to hold trials after the Second World War, and especially to create an International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.  We then examine the role that human rights, justice, and truth played in the democratic transitions that took place across Latin America. The course then focuses on the emergence and institutionalisation of transitional justice practices in a number of discrete cases especially South Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia. The final part of the course considers the creation of the International Criminal Court, and the politics surrounding its work in several cases in Africa. Throughout we look at the process and politics of norm diffusion, the relationship between state sovereignty, power, and justice, the debates about peace and justice, the relationship between the accountability norm and other related norms such as the responsibility to protect, humanitarianism, and truth and reconciliation, and the critiques of justice and accountability.

This course is available to all CISD students. Lectures will take place during the day.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This course aims to give students:

  • An understanding of the theories and concepts that inform the literature on the role of international and transitional justice.
  • An understanding of historical and contemporary developments in transitional justice.
  • An understanding of policy debates surrounding the politics of international and transitional justice.
  • An understanding of the development of advocacy strategies surrounding international and transitional justice.
  • Knowledge of the literature on transitional justice.


The course will be taught over 10 weeks with one 90 minute lecture and one 1 hour tutorial per week.

Method of assessment

  • Assessment one (1500 words); 25%
  • Assessment two (3500 words); 75%


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules