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

This information is for the 2020/21 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 Gender, 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, such as the legacies of the Nuremberg Trials and Germany’s coming to terms with the Holocaust. The second part of the course 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 27.5 hours across Michaelmas Term.  This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of recorded lectures and student presentations, flipped lectures (online discussion of lecture materials), and in-person (or, if a School closure demands it, online) seminars. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of the Michaelmas Term.  

The course will provide or mediate additional learning opportunities, such as research seminars on topics directly linked to the theme(s) covered in the course. These  will serve to reinforce learning objectives by creating an opportunity for students to engage with core issues outside regular classes.

Formative coursework

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

Indicative reading

  • Bakiner, Onur (2016) Truth Commissions: Memory, Power, and Legitimacy (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press)
  • Chinkin, Christine and Kaldor, Mary (2018) International Law and New Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • Cohen, Stanley (2000) States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering (Cambridge: Polity Press)
  • Duyvesteyn, Isabelle and Angstrom, Jan (eds) (2005) Rethinking the Nature of War (London: Frank Cass)
  • Heller, Kevin Jon (2011) The Nuremberg Military Tribunals and the Origins of International Criminal Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
  • Hughes, James and Denisa Kostovicova (eds) (2018) Rethinking Reconciliation and Transitional Justice After Conflict (Abingdon: Routledge)
  • Kerr, Rachel, Erin Mobekk (2007) Peace and Justice: Seeking Accountability after War (Cambridge: Polity Press)
  • Murphy, Colleen (2017) The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • Orentlicher, Diane (2018) Some Kind of Justice: The ICTY’s Impact in Bosnia and Serbia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • O’Rourke, Catherine (2013), Gender Politics in Transitional Justice (Abingdon: Routledge)
  • Roht-Arriaza, Naomi, Mariezcurrena, Javier (eds) (2006) Transitional Justice in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  • Shall, Rosalind, Waldorf, Lars, Hazan, Pierre (eds) (2010) Localizing Transitional Justice: Interventions and Priorities after Mass Violence (Stanford: Stanford University Press).
  • Teitel, Ruti (2013) Humanity’s Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press)


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2019/20: 25

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills