Reflections on the Presence and Absence of Religious Actors in Transitional Justice Processes: On Legitimacy and Accountability

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter



Publication details

Title of host publicationJustice Mosaics
DatePublished - 12 May 2017
Number of pages42
PublisherInternational Centre for Transitional Justice
Place of PublicationNew York
EditorsRoger Duthie, Paul Seils
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Electronic)9780998282909


This chapter explores the relation between religious actors and transitional justice. It finds that the roles of religious actors in repression or conflict, as victims of, complicit in, or perpetrators of abuse, will likely affect the roles they assume in transitional justice processes as advocates, agents, or spoilers thereof or, indeed, their absence from such initiatives. The linking of the period to be redressed to the period of redress also suggests that the roles of religious entities in the former may influence the form of justice they pursue and the precise measures they advocate, which may include truth-seeking initiatives, but also criminal prosecutions, vetting, and property restitution. This linking of periods also reveals that, in addition to a religious logic of forgiveness, more mundane aspects, such as economic and political interests, may drive religious actors’ actions in transitional justice contexts. The chapter concludes that religious actors are called upon to participate in state-sanctioned transitional justice because of their capacity to lend their ‘special’ legitimacy to such initiatives; however, at stake is not a one-sided process of legitimation, but a dual process whereby religious actors are perceived as legitimate, or not, by reference not only to their religious integrity but also in terms of their own adherence to human rights and humanitarian law standards. In other words, it is the accountability of religious actors which sets the limit of their involvement in transitional justice as a measure of effectiveness.

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