What are Transitional Justice Mechanisms?

Ntsikayezwe Yahya Fakude
7 min readOct 21, 2018



For centuries the global community as a political arena, has had a history riddled by not only ceaseless conflict and indifference with regard to varying political ideals and dogma’s but a vastness riddled by the dimensions of paucity and anguish. This circumstance has nonetheless been a constant variable in many states with regard to ethnic groups around the world competing for not only equality but ranging basic societal privileges. Nevertheless, although in today’s global epoch the global community exists in a realm of relative peace and prosperity, the constituency of Africa and the Middle-East remain one of regions in the global community where the transition from an tendency of oppressive dictatorships which limited specific ethnic groups, to a society based upon the ideals of mutual freedom and equality, was quite multifaceted. This system of oppression has however been a constant variable for many states within this region. Consequently, it is as a result of this veracity that in this essay I will firstly be discussing what are transitional justice’ mechanisms . I will then secondly discuss overall effectiveness of these systems in facilitating peace in a post-conflict environment. I will then end this discussion with my opinion regarding this quandary.

What are Transitional Justice Mechanisms?

Many philosophers and academics characterize transitional justice as being, a form of justice that addresses or is associated to impartiality regarding human rights violations during the process of interstate conflict or dictatorial rule .Nevertheless, when approaching transitional justice mechanisms as a principle this process rotates around the provident of a social space that offers breathing room for societies that have been largely affected by violence and injustice, so that they may move forward from it. Nevertheless, when properly designed and assimilated Transitional justice mechanisms can play an incredibly fundamental role in the promotion of not only transparency and justice but societal reconciliation in a post conflicted physical milieu. Conversely many including, the United Nations and a variety of other organizations involved in the role of rights in today’s global epoch argue in some cases transitional justice mechanisms only worsen social and cultural facilitations in some states(“Transitional justice mechanisms — Real Rights Now”, 2018). On the other hand, transitional justice mechanisms when applied towards state politics are rooted in accountability and the redress of victims who have suffered the most atrocious forms of prejudice. Moreover, this form of justice asks the most difficult questions imaginable about not only decree but state politics by means of putting victims and their dignity first(“Transitional justice mechanisms — Real Rights Now”, 2018). Through this collective effort this process aims to signal the way forward for a renewed commitment to a society based on the ideals safety, equality and freedom from violence (ICTJ, 2018).

Transitional Justice Mechanism in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a transitional justice mechanism and court like body assembled in South Africa after the Apartheid regime ended (Hallet, 2018).Also referred to as the third wave of democratization, this movement accrued throughout the course of the 1970’s and 80’s in many regions around the world. This occurrence does however aim to assemble a novel of institutions in response to the tribulations and crimes perpetrated by predecessor regimes (Allen,1999) . This transitional body did however aim to not only help but recompense anybody who felt they had been a victim of not only violence but negligence at the hands of the National party administration. In addition, this commission also gave the perpetrators of violence within this expanse the opportunity to give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution. This opportunity was however granted to perpetrators as a result of the fact that several analysts argued the commitment to full prosecution through the justice system as war crimes would not only threaten the competence of South Africa as a new democracy but would promote hostility and division within the social facilitations of the region(Mamdami,2002). This association did however formally set up proceedings in 1995 and aimed to serve as a tool to facilitate social rehabilitation in the country and bring about a reunion of its people by uncovering the truth about human rights violations that took place throughout the course of this regime (Tutu, 2018).This committee hosted various sessions regarding both entity and institutional examinations to ensure that all citizens where given a fair opportunity to voice their grievances. This veracity can be noted as institutional hearings included testimonies of representatives from both the civil and state organizations such as, military officials, police, religious leaders, lawyers and industrial workers (Hollinda, 2013). The international human rights law does however entail two key aspects with regard to proceeding in this committee. The first aspect rotates around the operation of traditional justice mechanisms, consistent with willingness of its victims (“Transitional justice mechanisms — Real Rights Now”, 2018). Secondly, this commission should operate in a capacity complementary to justice mechanisms in a state and not replace them (“Transitional justice mechanisms — Real Rights Now”, 2018).

Successes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Facilitating the ‘Rainbow Nation’

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa remains one of the most celebrated reconciliatory proceedings of the 20th century. This is as a result of the fact that it brought all branches of South Africa’s society together in an attempt to not only rebuild the country but consolidate the project of creating a rainbow nation(“Apartheid in South Africa: How it Happened and Everything to Know”, 2018). Moreover, the South African TRC hearings attracted global attention as it was the first commission ever assembled to hold public hearings in which both victims and perpetrators where herd equally. This was however as a result of the fact that this process aimed to advance the cause of reconciliation, establish reliable institutions, improve access to justice for the most vulnerable populations as well as ensure no group was marginalized (Tutu,2012).Moreover, many individual who experienced the dimensions of the Apartheid praise this program as they believe the TRC was a platform which gave victims the opportunity to voice their suffering and pain in a way were it could be publicly acknowledged(Jardine,2000).In addition the TRC also gave victims information and closure regarding the whereabouts of missing loved ones .Advocates regarding the ideals of this commission do however assert that the effects of these hearings were long term and would later emerge as time progresses(The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa,2018).The TRC did however also play a crucial role in illustrating not only the populace of South Africa but other nations of the intercontinental community with regard to what mesures states should take in a post conflicted environment(Jardine,2000).

The Rainbow Nation in South Africa

The ‘rainbow nation’ is however a term first initially used by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe the social and interrelate milieu of South Africa post-apartheid. This expression was however developed in an attempt to establish unity and trust amongst an otherwise vulnerable and distrustful society. Nevertheless, as a consequence of South Africa’s diversity with regard to heritage and customs this term became associated with the foundations of multiculturalism for the populace of South Africa moving forward(“The Rainbow Nation — Dreams to Reality”, 2018). Furthermore, although Nelson Mandela also used this terminology as a metaphor to express the overcoming of divisions between the varying diverse ethnicities, racial identities and cultures race in South Africa even in today’s global epoch these phrase has become expressed in all aspects of the regions inter-state social and political facilitations(Martin,1996).This veracity can be noted due to the fact that in does 21st century this nation state has become one of the most diverse countries on the planet with a total of 11 offical national languages.


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