EU485      Half Unit
Post-Conflict Justice and Reconciliation in Europe and Beyond

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Denisa Kostovicova CBG 7.03


This course is available on the MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po), MSc in European and International Public Policy, MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Bocconi), MSc in European and International Public Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Women, Peace and Security. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The pursuit of justice in the aftermath of mass atrocity and gross human rights violations has become a norm in a globalised post-Cold War world. It rests on the premise that states and societies ought to engage with the difficult past in order to transition from conflict to peace. Provisions including redress for human rights violations have now become the staple of peace-agreements, whether through retributive instruments such as war crimes trials or restorative instruments such as truth commissions and reparations. However, scholars and practitioners have simultaneously been confronted with the limitations of transitional justice. Instead of promoting peace and reconciliation, it has often had the opposite impact: it has further divided ethnic communities, distorted the truth about suffering, and traumatised rather than dignified the victims. With a focus on Europe’s contribution to global transitional justice norm and policy, this course examines how the pursuit of post-conflict justice is theorised and tackles the puzzle of its unintended effects on peace-building in post-conflict societies.

The course starts out by introducing transitional justice as a field study and practice, with a focus on the nature of contemporary violence to contextualise human rights violations for which justice is sought. The first part of the course relates the emergence of a global norm of transitional justice to the lessons from Europe’s history: the Nuremberg Trials, Germany’s coming to terms with the Holocaust, and Franco-German reconciliation. The second part is a comparative assessment of three key mechanisms of transitional justice: international trials, truth and reconciliation commissions, and lustration, with empirical examples from Europe and beyond. The third part addresses transitional justice as public policy with a focus on the European Union. In conclusion, the course addresses the question how we know and study the effects of transitional justice, and reflects critically on theorising, methods and data in transitional justice research.

The course engages with multi-disciplinary literature and approaches to transitional justice which have defined the emergence of this new field of study. The course provides a critical evaluation of theories of transitional justice and draws implications for policy making.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

The course will provide additional activities in a form of a film evening and debate, or an organised visit to a relevant cultural event in London, such as exhibition or a play. These activities will be directly linked to the theme(s) covered in the course, and will serve to reinforce learning objectives by creating an opportunity for students to engage with core issues through alternative approaches.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 exercise, 1 presentation and 1 essay in the MT.

Indicative reading


Essay (100%, 4500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills