Transitional justice (TJ) is considered an important stage in the development of the international movement to protect basic human rights, and it represents a performativity event in international law to prevent impunity. International TJ advocacy has expanded its scope from dealing with past violence to include primarily the end of ongoing conflicts for peace. At first glance, the case for TJ seems incontrovertible, and questioning TJ seems to entail critiquing the human rights project as a whole. However, the impact of TJ instruments has been inappropriate or even harmful in these contexts, some have argued that states will pursue justice as a result of a case-specific balancing of politics, pragmatics, and normative belief.

This thesis evaluates the TJ experience in Libya in the aftermath of the Qadhafi regime, revealing contextual challenges to TJ in Libya from 2011. The key findings indicate a close relationship between contextual factors (political context, type of conflict, institutional context) and the trajectory of TJ. Libya’s fragile statehood, the nature and the scale of ongoing conflicts, and the interference of various regional and external actors have undermined Libya’s political transition and complicated prospects for peace and reconciliation. Within the context of political and territorial division and continued human rights violations, it concludes that Libya’s TJ model has been inappropriate and failed to achieve its ambitious goals to build peace after the 2011 civil war and prevent future atrocities. TJ has been used to serve international and local actors’ interests in the Libyan conflict. Finally, it advocates for a transformative. 


Chapter One: Introduction

Societies transitioning from repressive to democratic regimes or from conflict to post-conflict are mostly deeply divided and wounded societies. In which governments face myriad challenges, starting from achieving social and political stability, transforming these societies from those that tolerate or accept oppression to those that respect human rights. Simply changing the regimes won’t solve the issue. TJ plays a role in such situations and it has become a prominent component of peace building. Currently, Transitional justice involves a set of measures advocated by human rights organizations to address a violent past, aiming to support democratic transition, rule of law, rebuild trust in state institutions, and seek to prevent future conflicts in countries transitioning from conflict and/or authoritarian rule, based on the idea that accountability will deter the state and armed groups from resorting to violence. 

In the post-Cold War era, which has been marked by the revival of the moral philosophy of international relations,[i] international actors have pushed for TJ to be implemented in a range of contexts, including post-conflict contexts, and even to solve ongoing internal conflicts. TJ was used as a means of diplomacy in conflict resolution, humanitarian intervention, and referral to international tribunals, It has been not to wait to end the conflict[1], the Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and Rwanda trials are these contemporary instances of TJ in the midst of conflict before the transition has occurred. 

In fact, Claims to justice do not easily translate into effective means to achieve TJ, and a ‘one size fits all’ approach sometimes deepens, divides, or is counter-productive because it overlooks the reality on the ground. TJ is based on different ideas and practices which both coexist and conflict, for example between the goal of providing justice to victims on one hand and security and maintaining stability on the other hand. Some scholars argued that TJ policy is that it has been too heavily rooted in normative notions of what is inherently believed to be right, rather than evidence about what has been occurring on the ground[2]. Oskar Thomas has argued that TJ debates are ‘faith based’ rather than ‘fact based’[3], which means that TJ may be externally imposed and inappropriate for the political and legal cultures in which they are placed. 

There is insufficient evidence to support proponents’ claims that TJ contributes to reconciliation or fosters respect for human rights and the rule of law, or helps to establish conditions for a peaceful and democratically governed country. societies are different, each post-conflict situation is unique, and requires different  mechanisms to address past abuses, they should adapt their TJ processes in a contextually appropriate manner, what is beneficial, in one country may be irrelevant in another. Experience has shown that TJ projects are complicated and prone to collapse when the change resulting from military intervention, because it usually leads to the creation of institutional conditions characterized by collapse and conflicting interests between social groups.

Following the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, many had high hopes not only for the removal of abusive regimes but also for TJ to address the abuses of the former regimes.  The amnesty was utilized in Algeria and the commission of inquiry in Morocco but in the sense of regimes trying to reinforce their own legitimacy. Although the ruling regimes of many Arab countries, such as Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia, have significantly changed, they have not fully implemented TJ owing to the absence of political stability or undemocratic elections and polarization and division.[4]