n African Human Rights Law Journal - The devil is in the details : the challenges of transitional justice in recent African peace agreements

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



Over the last seven years, warring parties in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone have signed peace agreements that include detailed provisions aimed at securing transitional justice. The novelty is not the growing use of transitional justice mechanisms in the aftermath of violent conflict, but rather that these mechanisms are being increasingly designed within the peace negotiation process. An examination of these four agreements illustrates a curious phenomenon: Alleged human rights violators are involved in the articulation of transitional justice mechanisms at the initial stages, without victim representation, transparency and dialogue. This article examines three underlying justifications for including transitional justice in peace agreements and finds that all three fail to adequately justify the inclusion of transitional justice blueprints in the initial stage of the peace process. First, including blueprints for transitional justice within peace agreements may actually weaken, rather than strengthen, the likelihood of a holistic and integrated transitional justice strategy by allowing alleged perpetrators to dictate the terms of justice. Second, including these details within peace agreements is not necessary to further conflict resolution efforts. Third, including detailed designs through undermining justice may also undermine state building. The inclusion of detailed transitional justice processes in peace agreements is not necessarily a clear victory for victims and human rights activists. At best, peace agreements may provide a foundation on which future transitional justice strategies can build.

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