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Do transitional justice measures help foster democratic security forces?

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Transitional justice faces growing expectations about its ability to support democratisation processes in countries transitioning from conflict and/or authoritarian rule. Empirical research investigating these claims, however, remains divided on its effects. Certain aspects also remain underexplored, such as transitional justice’s impact on the security forces, despite broad recognition that the latter’s transformation is key to supporting transitions. This paper seeks to fill this gap by undertaking a structured comparative analysis of four countries – Brazil, Chile, Sierra Leone and Uganda – to critically examine some of the commonly postulated pathways through which transitional justice is expected to impact the security forces: reform, removal, narrative reframing and resistance. We find there is little evidence of transitional justice having had a distinctly positive or negative effect.Where there was impact, this was often discrete, time-bound and accompanied by broader societal and political dynamics that simultaneously drove processes of change within the security forces.

This paper was first published in Tandonline. Please click here to read this publication.

(Photo credit: DRC mobile Court / Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Flickr)