Students Address the Role of Transitional Justice during Conflicts or Early Post-Conflict Situations

Students of the MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law during the Transitional Justice in Practoce course Students of the MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law during the Transitional Justice in Practoce course

During one semester, as part of the course on transitional justice in practice given by Thomas Unger and Firouzeh Mitchell, students of our MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law (MTJ) formulated policies to tackle one of the most challenging questions in transitional justice (TJ) work today: what is the role of TJ during conflict or early post-conflict situations?

Finding Solutions and Answers to a Key TJ Issue

As was highlighted by the previous UN Special Rapporteur on Transitional Justice, Pablo de Greiff, successful TJ initiatives have to tackle the issue of how to ‘increase the effectiveness of the measures when implemented in post-conflict contexts and to redress abuses and violations that frequently take place in contexts where institutions are affected by various forms of weakness’.

‘The Special Rapporteur underlined that serious thinking is needed on this issue and this is exactly what we addressed in this course, via classes and exercises that put students in very concrete situations where they have to develop their own solutions and proposals’ stresses Thomas Unger, Co-Director of the MTJ.

‘With this focus on TJ in situations of conflict we aim at developing the practical skills of our students and bridge the gap between theory and practice’ he adds.

MAS in Transitional Justice Students Address the Role of Transitional Justice during Conflicts or Early Post Conflict Situations ter

From Support to Victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence to the Reintegration of Child Soldiers

Taking this as a starting point, students have been working for one semester in six mock NGOs groups to find some answers on what could be done to support TJ in highly complex contexts.

The six NGOs had different mandates and addressed key issues like displacement, the reintegration of child soldiers, how to strengthen victims’ networks, how to better support victims of sexual and gender-based violence, measures to change systematic discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex communities in early post-conflict stages, or the role of economic, social and cultural rights in TJ processes.

MAS in Transitional Justice Students Address the Role of Transitional Justice during Conflicts or Early Post Conflict Situations

Support by Leading TJ Practitioners

Students received valuable and hands-on input from different TJ practitioners throughout the semester.

‘We are very grateful to the TJ Institute at Ulster University, the International Criminal Court and the Center on Conflict, Development & Peacebuilding of the Graduate Institute, as well as the Dutch-based NGO Impunity Watch for their constant support to our students’ stresses Thomas Unger.

MAS in Transitional Justice Students Address the Role of Transitional Justice during Conflicts or Early Post Conflict Situations Expert Advice

Development of Policy Proposals and Presentation to a TJ Task Force

In their final policy proposals, students elaborated on topics that are of high relevance in conflict and early post-conflict setting, such as documentation, security and protection, victims’ participation, gender and reparations.

‘The level of creativity students showed during the practical exercises was breathtaking. Students were able to break down complex issues into concrete policy proposals for change on the ground’ says Thomas Unger.

In a final session, students presented their policy proposal to a task force on TJ. The task force was composed of three experts coming from different backgrounds relevant to TJ, such as civil society, government and international organizations. A recurring message that came out of the presentation by students was that even in complex situations something can be done to lay the ground for justice. A key recommendation from students was that bottom-up approaches should be preferred to highly technical top-down interventions. Students also stressed that it is essential to link justice with other activities such as psychosocial support or assistance in order to make early on a real difference for victims.

‘The product of our student’s work is highly promising and we would like to make it available to a broader audience. Please find below the links to the different policy proposals. They are work in progress but we hope that they will be a source of inspiration for others working in the field’ underlines Thomas Unger.


The Six Proposals

  • Policy proposal by Rebuild – a local NGO working on disarmament and the reintegration of ex-combatants of armed non-state actors – which focuses on the reintegration of child soldiers, a highly relevant issues for TJ in early post-conflict situations.
  • Policy proposal by the Victims and Survivors Network Initiative – a local NGO providing support to victims and survivors of serious human rights abuses – about the need to think early on about the creation of victims’ networks, one of the key challenges in TJ processes, but essential to build legitimate TJ processes.
  • Policy proposal by Action for ESCR: Change is Now, an international NGO working on economic, social and cultural rights, a topic that is often under-represented in TJ, in particular at the early stages where the focus is often narrow on addressing civil and political rights violations.
  • Policy proposal by Stand with Humans – an international NGO working on sexual violence – to address sexual violence as a priority in TJ processes today. Support is, however, often limited to the prosecution of rape cases. Stand with Human takes an innovative approach, looking at the broader gender dimension of these violations.

MAS in Transitional Justice Students Address the Role of Transitional Justice during Conflicts or Early Post Conflict Situations bis


Portrait of Yuval Shany News

Professor Yuval Shany is the New Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Committee

5 July 2018

Yuval Shany is the Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in International Law at the Law Faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He also teaches human rights in the Geneva Academy’s LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Read more

Portrait of Anh Thu Duong News

Executive Master in International Law in Armed Conflict: What our Alumni Say

3 July 2017

Anh Thu Duong joined the Executive Master in 2011 while working on human rights and humanitarian issues at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. She tells us about the programme and what it brought to her career.

Read more

Alumni during the 2017 alumni gathering Event

2019 Alumni Gathering

25 May 2019

We are delighted to invite all our alumni for the 2019 Alumni Gathering that will take place on Saturday 25 May 2019 in Geneva!

Read more

Peru, Huancasancos. Vigil and burial ceremonies for the victims of the conflict whose remains were finally restituted to their families after 30 years of disappearance. Spring School

Confronting the Truth: The Functions, Practices and Challenges of Truth Commissions

2-4 April 2019

Truth Commissions are by now an integral part of the transitional justice vocabulary and practice. The 2019 Spring School will provide a comprehensive, multidimensional and practical examination of this transitional justice mechanism, shedding light on both its aims and the practical challenges it has met or is likely to meet.

Read more

Syria,  Aleppo, great Umayyad mosque. Destructions. Short Course

The Interplay between International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

25 January - 22 February 2019

This short course focuses on the specific issues that arise in times of armed conflict regarding the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. It addresses key issues like the applicability of human rights in times of armed conflict; the possibilities of restricting human rights under systems of limitations and derogations; and the extraterritorial application of human rights law.

Read more

U.S. Ambassador Keith Harper, after the presentation of the report to the Human Rights Council September 27 by independent experts: Mr. Pablo de Greiff, Mr. Christof Heyns, Ms. Maya Sahli-Fadel. Project

Support to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence

Completed in January 2012

From 2012 to 2015 the Geneva Academy hosted the Adviser to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence Pablo de Greiff.

Read more

A participant to a Geneva Academy event takes note on a computer Project

The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age

Completed in January 2014

The digital age offers unique opportunities to strengthen human rights implementation and monitoring and has transformed the means through which human rights are exercised. Equally, the digital age poses unique challenges in ensuring that states and businesses respect and protect our rights in the digital forum. The full extent of the human rights implications of the digital age remain unknown.

Read more