TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE: HOW A LACK OF LEGITIMACY IS HINDERING DEMOCRATIZATION
Khan, Sadaf Jalil
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Abstract Transitional Justice is a method to inject a sense of accountability and promote reconciliation in a post-conflict society laced with human rights abuses, war crimes, and poor governance structures. The methods consist of both judicial and non-judicial options meant to hold bad-actors accountable, unify divided factions, and work towards democratization. Building trust within the community and having the process viewed as legitimate is critical to the transition’s success. Without the affected populations supporting the process, it can have an adverse effect and deepen the divisions it is supposed to heal. This thesis shows how legitimacy is an integral process to transitional justice proceedings succeeding. The paper compares countries where its leaders have been indicted for crimes against humanity by either the United Nations or a criminal tribunal created to specifically deal with the alleged transgressions. It will outline the three main areas where legitimacy is most frequently undercut and how it deteriorates the process’s integrity. The three areas, trust between the local populations, the role of political elites, and the lack of social mobilization are discussed below. The first chapter shows how political elites, both domestic and international, engineer transitional justice’s implementation to meet their own goals. As seen in Serbia, and Iraq, they co-opt revolutions and transitions; they manipulate the process for political gain and they ignore repercussions on the population. The second chapter demonstrates how different transitional justice methods are perceived among local populations and how choosing the right combination of methods to apply in each situation is challenging. Comparing transitional justice implementation in Uganda and Rwanda shows how both judicial and non-judicial methods presented pitfalls in the transition. Judicial measures were challenging when determining who should be tried, if victims included soldiers fighting against their will, and if trials were exploited by the victors to punish their enemies. Finally, the paper demonstrates the importance of reaching out to affected populations to establish legitimacy during the transition. Those implementing transitional justice are unable to overcome their obstacles while conducting outreach and fail to research best-practices, make outreach a priority, and allocate adequate funding. Modeling best practices on global health campaigns operating under similar constraints provides a foundation for next steps. Realizing how poor outreach decimates a transition’s chance at success is an under prioritized but important component of any transition.