Thursday, February 26, 2009

Conference: Taking Stock of Transitional Justice

Oxford Transitional Justice Research will host a conference, June 26-28, 2009, on "Taking Stock of Transitional Justice." A program is not yet available online. Here's a description:

On 26-28 June 2009, Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) will host a conference to critically engage with and challenge the current academic thinking and practical implementation of transitional justice. The broad themes of the conference are outlined here, with a full programme to follow very shortly.

The opening plenary will set the stage, highlighting the development and currently accepted justifications for transitional justice processes. The individual sessions will take this process forward, structured around five broad themes, as outlined below. These sessions will allow for an in-depth, inter-disciplinary interrogation of the principles and practices of transitional justice.

The five plenary discussions will ground these themes in context-specific cases. Posing a number of contentious propositions – including, "It's time to move on," "It's all just politics," "Justice is a local process" – country experts will reflect on how these positions have played out in the practice of transitional justice.

Through this structure, the conference will question and re-orient the thinking around transitional justice, exploring its moral underpinnings, its universality and transferability, its objectives and implementation mechanisms. The aim will be to emerge in the final plenary with a better understanding of how to research, comprehend, debate and implement transitional justice.

The five broad themes that will form panels series are as follows:

1. Means and Ends: Reconciliation, Truth and Justice

In order to challenge the current paradigm, there is a need to return to the principles from which transitional justice has developed. The sessions under this heading will reframe transitional justice by critiquing its theoretical and conceptual basis. These panels will reflect critically on a range of standard assumptions, concepts and vocabulary used in transitional justice literature and practice. Through exploring the justifications for certain objectives and approaches, the sessions will aim to illuminate the fundamental principles of transitional justice. They will do this by discussing normative principles, the broad theme of reconciliation, memories in the making, and power, actors and agency.

2. Criminal Justice

The relationship between criminal and transitional justice is often considered from narrow disciplinary perspectives. The aim of this conference section will be to explore the relationship between criminal and transitional justice from two separate but related angles. The first set of discussions will examine the workings of international and domestic criminal justice from the 'inside', opening up the possiblity of exploring various aspects of prosecutions in transitional justice such as issues of prosecutorial discretion, the principle of complementarity and the construction of a criminal case. The second set of discussions will step 'outside' of the parameters of criminal justice to explore critically the legitimacy of international and domestic prosecutorial regimes.

3. Post-Conflict Reconstruction & Transitional Justice

Transitional justice processes depend heavily on – and aim to contribute to – effective post-conflict reconstruction and institutional reform. Reconstruction and institutional reform are concerned with rebuilding and redesigning socio-political structures – from the level of organisations to that of an entire constitutional framework – with the goal of mitigating the consequences, and preventing the recurrence, of conflict. Panels under this heading will cover a broad research area, providing an opportunity to explore themes of security sector reform, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, land reform, professionalisation of the military and police, constitutional reform, post-conflict reconstruction, institutional capacity building and political decentralisation.

The goal of this section will be to expand discussions of transitional justice to incorporate security and development concerns, while maintaining the focus on 'justice' and interrogating the relationship between the two. These discussions will centre on alternative institutions of justice and conceptually linking transitional justice and post-conflict reconstruction through understandings of intervention and justice.

4. Local Justice

Increasingly, there are calls for transitional justice to be delivered "locally" or "from below." This section will explore issues of "local," "traditional" and "community-based" approaches to transitional justice, recognising the complexities and tensions at the heart of these descriptions. The aim will be to interrogate a range of pragmatic and normative motivations that have driven this recent trend in transitional justice. This section will focus on the key social objectives with which local justice has been connected, particularly restoration of fractured relationships and reconciliation, and the practical efficacy of local approaches in achieving the ends designated to them. These sessions will be structured around two broad categories of issues: conceptualising "local" transitional justice processes; and exploring how these approaches unfold practically, drawing on ethnographic, field-based studies in a range of geographic examples.

5. Reparations

This section will explore how reparations for human rights violations are understood as part of and beyond the transitional justice paradigm. Traditionally, reparations are perceived as the victim-centric, restorative aspect of transitional justice and as such bring a number of critical issues to the fore. These include: the concept of victimhood, possible forms of reparations, the manner in which the need for reparations is assessed, and the subsequent monitoring and evaluation of reparations policies.

The questions posed in this section will situate reparations simultaneously as a process of its own, and as intertwined with broader processes of transitional justice. From this basis, this section will explore conceptions of victimhood and their effect on reparations processes and reparations as enabling a victim-centred approach to transitional justice generally.