Transitional justice is a framework for confronting and redressing the legacies of mass atrocities and human rights abuses. It includes measures such as criminal prosecutions, reparations programs, truth commissions, memorialization, and institutional reforms (such as vetting of government officials and military personnel). These mechanisms can be combined to promote accountability, stability, and rule of law in post-conflict societies. A successful transitional justice process can begin to address social divisions, build trust between social groups and government institutions, and advance security and development goals.
Documentation projects play a crucial role in transitional justice. Documentation of violations and their effects can be of use in criminal prosecutions, truth-seeking, memorialization, and human rights advocacy efforts. They can also spur political will to see justice done, help people remember their history, and provide tools for reconciliation. Even in societies where transition is in the distant future, documentation projects can help people to prepare and push for accountability and rule of law.
To learn more about transitional justice visit the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), or download their What is Transitional Justice? memo. ICTJ has also prepared an overview of the specific role of documentation in transitional justice efforts — Documenting Truth. More in-depth resources are available in SJAC’s Transitional Justice Library.