Too much of a good thing: When transitional justice prescriptions may not work

Authors: VO Ojo and N Filbert

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: LLB LLM; Doctoral researcher in International Criminal Law, the Faculty of Law Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin. Project Manager and Researcher, Future Challenges NGO, Nigeria; LLB LLM PhD; Doctoral researcher, Faculty of Law, Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin, Germany. Assistant Lecturer, University of Dar es Salaam School of Law, Tanzania. Assistant Lecturer, University of Dar es Salaam School of Law
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 33 Issue 3, p. 526 – 542


Transitional justice developed as a pragmatic concept prescribing a set of mechanisms to be used by societies or countries experiencing systematic periods of armed conflicts or emerging from authoritarian regimes characterised by egregious violations of human rights or humanitarian law. While relative success stories of its utilisation have been recorded, questions have been raised regarding the recent tendency to prescribe transitional justice for societies which have not or are yet to undergo any transition. Through its lack of success in Nigeria and debatable effectiveness in Uganda, the article shows that transitional justice mechanisms are not a cure-all. While it does not contend that there is a perfect notion of transitional justice, the article proposes that transitional justice mechanisms must be designed from the ground up, with the victims at the centre of the process. While transitional justice is a global project, this article argues that its success can be achieved when its applicability and administration take into account the contextual and indigenous focus with a move towards localising its mechanisms.