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The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice

Image result for truth and reconciliation commission

The headline of this blog entry is the title of a newly published book by Colleen Murphy, out from Cambridge University Press.

Murphy is a professor of law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Here is a link to the amazon page for her book. 

If I understand it, the question that concerns Murphy is the old one -- how should revolutionaries, who have taken power on a promise to pursue broader social transformation, understand their job? What do they do next?

The constitution established in South Africa in 1993, with the success of negotiations to end apartheid, was specifically called the "Interim Constitution." Two years later the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, passed by the parliament pursuant to that interim constitution, created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was both truth finding and amnesty granting.

That TRC is at the heart of what Murphy has in mind by "transitional justice." But she doesn't want revolutionaries to feel their way blindly and with ad hocery. She wants legal philosophers such as herself to offer them "conceptual foundations."

I am frankly skeptical of the value of the enterprise, but she can't do a lot of harm by pursuing it.




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