Faculty of Law

Monash University

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2013 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

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FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedClayton Second semester 2013 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Dr Ronli Sifris


The term 'transitional justice' refers to the various judicial and non-judicial measures that may be implemented in order to redress a legacy of human rights abuses. Such measures include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations and different forms of institutional reform.

This unit will be divided into three parts. Part I will provide an overview of transitional justice. It will consider the meaning of the term "transitional justice" and provide a framework through which the concept of transitional justice may be viewed. It will also discuss the dilemmas inherent in dealing with a legacy of human rights abuse. For example, we will discuss the tension between peace and justice, the advantages and disadvantages of local versus international mechanisms for achieving justice, the tension between allocating resources to dealing with the past and allocating resources to building a better future. We will also consider the various contexts in which transitional justice mechanisms may be applicable. For example, we will consider the transition from dictatorship to democracy, the implementation of transitional justice mechanisms in conflicted democracies and the ways in which countries like Australia may use transitional justice mechanisms to deal with a legacy of human rights abuse against indigenous populations.

Part II of this unit will engage in a more detailed discussion of the actual transitional justice mechanisms. For example, we will consider the nature of prosecutions and the different types of prosecutions available. We will consider the option of a truth commission and how this compares with prosecutions. We will also consider the concept of reparations both from a moral and a legal standpoint and we will discuss the importance of institutional reform.

Part III of this unit will use case studies to ground students' understanding of the subject matter in concrete examples. For example, we will consider the South African truth commission and consider the role that it played in South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy. We will consider the "Arab Spring" and the role of transitional justice in those societies. In addition to exploring the transitional justice programmes implemented in different countries, we will also engage in a comparative analysis of the various case studies.


On completion of this unit students should:

  • have a general understanding of what is meant by the term "transitional justice"
  • have a general understanding of the dilemmas of dealing with past atrocities
  • have a general understanding of the different transitional justice mechanisms (such as prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, institutional reform) and their respective advantages and disadvantages
  • have a basic level of knowledge regarding the use of prosecutions in specific case studies
  • have a basic level of knowledge regarding the use of truth commissions in specific case studies
  • have a basic level of knowledge regarding the various reparations programs that have been implemented in different societies
  • have a basic level of knowledge regarding the way that different societies have reformed their institutions
  • have insight into the ways in which the various transitional justice mechanisms could be utilised in Australia.


Assignment: 30% (1000 word assignment 20%, class presentation 10%)
Take-home exam: 70%

Chief examiner(s)

Contact hours

Students enrolled in this unit will be provided with 36 contact hours of lectures/ seminars per semester whether intensive, semi-intensive, or semester-long offering.


Pre-requisities: LAW1101 Introduction to legal reasoning and LAW1104 Research and Writing