Atrocity Prevention in Transitional Justice: Vital component or secondary concern?


Transitional justice is a broad term which can include criminal prosecutions (international, domestic, or hybrid court), peace commissions, amnesties, traditional justice systems, or some combination of the above. Each of these comes with significant trade-offs, but all have the shared goal of helping a community of people recover from some conflict and prevent the associated atrocities from recurring. There is limited empirical data proving the impact of any of these tools on the resulting society (in part due to the fact that many conflicts which ended in the creation of transitional justice systems have occurred relatively recently), but that has not stopped a robust debate on the merits of transitional justice mechanisms.

Most frequently, this debate falls along the lines of “peace versus justice” – whether it is more important to halt the immediate conflict, or to provide for measures that can impact the long-term healing and reconciliation of survivors of the conflict. This debate will focus more specifically on several questions: What are the appropriate goals of transitional justice, and why? Do transitional justice mechanisms have a strong impact on the occurrence of future atrocity crimes? Should atrocity prevention take priority over other transitional justice goals when actions come into conflict? Are there ways that atrocity prevention can be built into transitional justice without sacrificing other goals? Speakers for this debate include:

  • Lisa Dicker, Public International Law and Policy Group, arguing that atrocity prevention should not be a primary goal of transitional justice. 
  • Darin Johnson, Howard University School of Law, moderator 
  • Kristin Smith, American Bar Association International Criminal Court Project, arguing in favor of atrocity prevention as a vital component of transitional justice

Date and Location

Thursday, October 17, 2019 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm
American Society of International Law
Address 1: 
2223 Massachusetts Avenue NW
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