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What is transitional justice?

©Chris Herwig/Liberia/2008 - Child participant in the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Children's Gallery, Monrovia City Hall in September 2008

Transitional justice refers to the "full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society's attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses in order to ensure accountability, service justice and achieve reconciliation. These may include both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, with differing levels of international involvement (or none at all) and individual prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking, institutional reform, vetting and dismissals, or a combination thereof." (Report of the Secretary-General, 23 August 2004 (S/2004/616), para. 8).

Transitional justice processes are based on a human rights approach and rely on international human rights and humanitarian law in demanding that states halt, investigate, punish, repair, and prevent abuses. A consistent focus on the rights and needs of victims and their families is important in all instances.