Transitional Justice

The details
Essex Law School
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
20 October 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The concept of transitional justice has long found its way into the legal, social and political discourses in societies undergoing fundamental social change. From Syria to Mexico, to the Gambia and Colombia, transitional justice is part of political interventions today.

Broadly speaking, it refers to the belief that where mass atrocities have taken place key stakeholders should engage with a set of judicial and non-judicial processes in order to achieve a successful transition from conflict to peace or repression to democracy.

Module aims

It aims to deal with the legacy of mass atrocities and some would add that it also has key forward looking goals such as social justice. Although transitional justice processes can be traced back at least to the Nuremberg trials, it was only in the 1990s that the term itself began to be used to refer to those judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms in a systematic manner. However, as we will learn in this module, the meaning, scope and aims of transitional justice are still far from clear and uncontested and many questions remain to be answered in terms of how best to operationalise its four key pillars: truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Module learning outcomes

The module will provide students with an overview of the history, theory, legal background and dilemmas of transitional justice, followed by in-depths discussions of the four pillars of transitional justice, truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, and of their interrelatedness. Students will also be introduced to selected current topics including whether it is feasible and desirable to enlarge the field of transitional justice, whether it is possible to have a holistic approach to TJ where all mechanisms coexist and are able to deliver on their goals, etc. In class we will also look at various States undergoing transitions but we will have a specific class on Colombia and the ambitious transitional justice system it has established. We will also deal a lot with how context shape transitional justice.

Module information

Potential topics to be covered
1. Introduction to transitional justice (history, theory, dilemmas)
2. The obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish (Part I)
3. Amnesties under international law (Part II)
4. The right to know the truth
5. The right to reparation
6. Guarantees of Non-Recurrence
7. Transitional justice actors and institutions
8. Taking stock of transitional justice experiences: Colombia
9. Expanding transitional justice: Addressing the economic and social dimensions

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be taught via weekly 2-hour seminars. The module teaching team will upload all relevant teaching materials on Moodle. You will find reading lists, the textbook, weekly handouts or PPS notes on Moodle. The materials in question are designed both to help you navigate the material to be covered in the seminars and to equip you to analyse the required readings. You will be expected to have completed the required readings in advance of your seminars.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Open Book, 180 minutes during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: Remote, Open Book, 24hr during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
0% 100%


Coursework Exam
0% 100%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Sabine Michalowski, email: smichal@essex.ac.uk.
Law Education Office, pgtlawqueries@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Luke Moffett
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Essex Law School

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.