The transitional justice (TJ) field has gone through phases in which the role of actors and their environments – or structure and agency, more broadly viewed – have been alternatively emphasised. This article privileges agency as the focal point of analysis. The main task is to conceptualise ways in which actors promote, or obstruct, transitional justice. Taking time and context into consideration, we construct a multi-level framework to explore how domestic and international actors operate within local, national and transnational environments. We focus on how diverse actors employ their various capabilities and are affected by values as well as interests when advancing their TJ preferences. Actors simultaneously shape and are shaped by the multi-level environments in which they operate. The framework presented here is designed to enhance knowledge about TJ outcomes. The working assumption is that the type of actors that promote (or obstruct) TJ will significantly influence the type of TJ initiatives adopted and also shape their impact.
This article analyses how state and non-state actors have tried to address the human rights violations and war crimes committed during the civil war in Mozambique (1976–92). While the political elite opted for amnesty laws, and urban civil society organisations remained largely on the side-lines, in rural areas, war survivors and the post-war generations have been actively engaged in dealing with the violent past through practices commonly referred to as local justice and healing. This analysis is based on parliamentary debates, interviews with state and non-state agents, and longitudinal field data from the rural areas of Gorongosa. It argues that while the state failed to institute accountability practices for wartime human rights violations, the ongoing vitality of local cultural practices of justice and healing have been crucial to attain accountability for certain serious wartime violations.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was set up in 2007, under UN auspices to try those involved in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The Tribunal seeks the perpetrators not of mass murder or crimes against humanity but of a single assassination termed a “heinous terrorist act”. The Tribunal has generated unprecedented tension, mistrust and prolonged crises in government ever since its controversial ratification by the UN Security Council in 2007. It has emerged as one of the most divisive issues in post-civil war Lebanon. This article argues that the Tribunal is an internationalisation of a domestic political conflict in a deeply divided country, whose judiciary is unable to hold perpetrators accountable; too divided to conduct an impartial inquiry; and too weak to reach credible verdicts. The criminal inquiry was instigated by a local call for justice, pursued by regional hegemons (the USA, the UK and France) and imposed by the international community (the UN, the EU and the Quartet) in an attempt to end impunity. The troubled judicial process was supported by sections of civil society; yet once established, the Tribunal was driven by international actors and, owing to its apparent politicisation, the role of local actors was weakened.
Human rights activists began to develop strategies for a transitional justice process in Afghanistan soon after the United States-led intervention in 2001. By mid-decade the efforts had culminated in an officially supported action plan, however the plan was timid and prosecutions were at any rate neutralised by a subsequent amnesty law promulgated by the Afghan Parliament. Throughout, loose but enduring coalitions of national and international actors formed on both sides of the issue. This ensured that the question did not go away, but also that nothing was resolved. As chronicled in the ethnographic and process-oriented narrative below, the nascent institutions of the Afghan state itself became the arena for the negotiations and contestations in this struggle.
This article explores the conditions that led to the referral of the crisis in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the arrest warrant against Sudan’s President Bashir in 2009. It is argued that a judicial reading of the situation gained prominence, both because of activist mobilisation outside Sudan and because the UN Security Council failed to agree on a more robust “responsibility to protect” approach. The externalisation of the issue of accountability for crimes in Darfur had several consequences. In addition to contributing to a lack of local ownership of justice, the recasting of complex local patterns of conflict in the moral vocabulary of a western judicial system simplified complexities on the ground. The arrest warrant was also issued at a time when international actors were pursuing a number of policy objectives in Sudan, including the implementation of the peace agreement between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Combining a confrontational approach with a cooperative one has turned out to be extremely difficult, and the arrest warrant has exposed growing divisions among members of the international community, both regarding the response to atrocities in Darfur and regarding the purpose and priorities of the ICC.