EduXchange.NL

Mass Atrocities, Human Rights and Law

RGBUIER014

About this course

How should a society deal with a history of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law? Should those believed to be responsible for violations face criminal prosecutions and sanctions? Or should a general amnesty be granted as a compromise in order to secure peace? Is it possible to prosecute thousands of perpetrators of widespread violence, and how should victims be remedied? Do victims deserve recognition and repair - and, if so, how? How does international law contribute to peacebuilding, reconciliation, justice, and reparation? These are some of the questions addressed in this engaging and critical elective course.

Post-conflict peacebuilding refers to actions taken to support societies that are trying to avoid relapsing into conflict. It is a multi-dimensional endeavour with several pillars; one of which is referred to as transitional justice. Together with other pillars, such as security and rule of law, transitional justice is now firmly a part of peacebuilding responses. Transitional justice arose out of the need to address mass atrocities in societies in conflict. It is based on the idea that backward-looking processes, which acknowledge and address harms suffered, will help bring about more peaceful and stable societies. While there are debates about the definition, transitional justice is seen as “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, serve justice and achieve reconciliation” (UN SG report). These processes include domestic and international(ised) trials, truth commissions, reparation programs, vetting and lustration processes, and other efforts to promote reconciliation and memorialisation. These different justice processes have evolved over the past decades, and aim at (re-)establishing trust and the rule of law in societies transitioning from violence.

This course is designed for students interested in peacebuilding, rule of law, human rights, conceptions of justice, and international politics. The course includes foundational lectures on the theories, debates, and elements underpinning transitional justice, as well as on the various mechanisms. Students will be assessed via participation in class, written assignments, and a final exam. A highlight of the course is that in the small working groups, a hypothetical conflict is presented which students reflect upon over the course and attempt to negotiate transitional justice responses.

Context:

The course has three aims. First, that students will gain a critical understanding of the development of transitional justice and how it operates within the broader peacebuilding field. Second, that students will be able to apply this knowledge to hypothetical cases and will be able to present arguments from the perspective of different actors (i.e. states, NGOs, IGOs, civil society). Third, that students will develop the capabilities and skills to critically discuss and write about relevant topics in the field of transitional justice. In this sense, the course aims to develop not only students’ knowledge of the law, its application in practice, and also their written and oral advocacy skills. These goals are related to the scientific and social context around the field of transitional justice. Specifically, students will learn the various roles that law can play in dealing with past serious human rights violations and how law can help societies transition and, potentially, transform.

Skills:
-Knowledge acquisition
-Legal research
-Legal writing
-Critical analysis

  • Argumentation and negotiation (written and oral)

Learning outcomes

1. Knowledge, understanding, insight
After this course:

  • the student will have gained an understanding of the various human rights responses under international law to mass atrocities committed in communities around the world (a field known as transitional justice).

  • the student will have a critical understanding of the development of transitional justice and how it operates within the broader peace-building field.

  • the student will have an understanding and knowledge about the historical development of transitional justice, the various justice processes that may be employed, and how they operate in theory as well as practice.

  • the student will be able to identify societies in transition in contemporary settings and the applicable laws and legal processes.

2. Contextual positioning
After this course:

  • the student is able to understand and debate positions taken in key scholarship regarding transitional justice, including critical perspectives.

  • the student is able to apply their knowledge about transitional justice processes to hypothetical cases.

  • the student is able to present arguments from the perspective of different actors (i.e. states, NGOs, IGOs, civil society).

  • the student is able to identify, within specific contexts, challenges and potential solutions facing key stakeholders when developing processes to address past abuses.

3. General academic and legal skills
After this course:

  • the student has developed the capabilities and skills to critically discuss and write about relevant topics in the field of transitional justice.
  • the student will have developed knowledge of the law and how it operates in a political context, but also will have developed their written and oral advocacy and negotiation skills.

Good to know

Do you study at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) or Wageningen University and Research (WUR)? You can enrol via eduXchange.nl

Required prior knowledge

You must meet the following requirements

  • Completed all course modules listed below
  • Introduction to Law of Obligations (RGBUPRV001)
  • Introduction to Property Law (RGBUPRV002)
  • Foundations of Law (RGBUSBR001)
  • Intro Constitutional/Administrative Law (RGBUSBR002)
  • Introduction to Criminal Law (RGBUSTR001)

Link to more information

  • Credits
    ECTS 7.5
  • Level
    bachelor
  • Contact coordinator
If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Utrecht University.

Offering(s)

  • Start date

    22 april 2024

    • Ends
      14 juli 2024
    • Term *
      Period 4
    • Location
      Utrecht
    • Instruction language
      English
    Enrolment period closed
  • Start date

    22 april 2025

    • Ends
      13 juli 2025
    • Term *
      Period 4
    • Location
      Utrecht
    • Instruction language
      English
    Enrolment starts in 205 days
These offerings are valid for students of TU Eindhoven