SOAS University of London

School of Law

Justice, Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Post-Conflict Societies

Module Code:
Taught in:
Term 2

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  1. An understanding of the principal themes, issues and debates in the field of transitional justice.
  2. An understanding of selected legal issues relating to peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction.
  3. The ability to identify and compare different approaches to these issues, through the use of case studies.
  4. A familiarity with the work of leading scholars and the ability to assess critically the readings assigned in the course.
  5. The ability to think independently about the themes explored in the course.
  6. The ability to research and write a long essay on a topic covered in the course.

Scope and syllabus

This half-unit course complements a range of courses on human rights, international law and law and development.  It consists of an intellectual history of the field of transitional justice and a critical examination of the role of law and lawyers in relation to a range of issues which commonly arise in transitional or post-conflict societies.  The course highlights differing approaches to dealing with a legacy of past human rights abuses at the local, national and international levels, including issues of accountability for past human rights abuses, redress for victims, reconciliation and reconstruction of the legal order.

Week 1: Introduction to the course; relevant fields of law and their intersection; topics covered in the course; key concepts; leading scholars, library and other resources; complementarity with other courses.

Week 2: Teitel's 'genealogy' of transitional justice

Week 3: Retributive justice after World War II: Nuremberg - A 'gold standard' or a 'beautiful idea murdered by a gang of ugly facts'?

Week 4: The 'battle against impunity' and the 'justice cascade'; domestic and international responses to human rights violations in Latin America after dictatorship.

Week 5: 'Traditional' justice: case study - Rwanda after genocide and/or Mozambique after civil war.

Week 6: 'Restorative' justice and the concept of reconciliation: case study - South Africa after apartheid.

Week 7: Amnesties: 'No peace without justice'?

Week 8: 'Steady-state' transitional justice: transitional justice everywhere, all the time.

Week 9: Beyond accountability: constitutional reform in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Week 10: Reconstruction and reform of the justice sector in the aftermath of conflict and repression.

Method of assessment

Assessment weighting: 100% coursework (one 4000 essay).  All coursework may be resubmitted.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules