The Dynamics of Transitional Justice draws on the case of East Timor in order to reassess how transitional justice mechanisms actually play out at the local level. Transitional justice mechanisms – including trials and truth commissions – have become firmly entrenched as part of the United Nations ‘tool-kit’ for successful post-conflict recovery. It is now commonly assumed that by establishing individual accountability for human rights violations, and initiating truth-seeking and reconciliation programs, individuals and societies will be assisted to ‘come to terms’ with the violent past and states will make the ‘transition’ to peaceful, stable liberal democracies. Set against the backdrop of East Timor’s referendum and the widespread violence of 1999, this book interrogates the gap between the official claims made for transitional justice and local expectations. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including extensive in-depth interviews with victims/survivors, community leaders and other actors, it produces a nuanced and critical account of the complex interplay between internationally-sponsored trials and truth commissions, national justice agendas and local priorities. The Dynamics of Transitional Justice fills a significant gap in the existing social science literature on transitional justice, and offers new insights for researchers and practitioners alike.
Lia Kent is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University.