“Resistance vis-à-vis transitional justice is normal”

19.07.2018

Dr. Briony Jones is an Associate Professor in International Development at the University of Warwick (United Kingdom), a Senior Researcher at swisspeace and a Board member at TRIAL International. She explains how her background in social sciences has shaped her vision of post-conflict justice.

“As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to be an academic. The desire to push back boundaries and be challenged drove me to pursue research on violence, reconciliation and peacebuilding. My current research looks into perceptions of transitional justice, how people experience it subjectively on a personal, political and sociological level.

Transitional justice is a complex, multi-layered process that goes well beyond legal proceedings. It touches upon concepts of social contract, citizenship, democracy, representation… It is therefore unsurprising that it is sometimes met with resistance or skepticism.

This resistance has traditionally been seen as a negative, but I think of it as a normal part of the process and it can even be constructive. Post-conflict justice processes are driven by a minority of people holding power, often abiding to mainstream narratives. There should be a space for alternative narratives and dissenting voices too. If we stop seeing them as threats and start paying heed, they have the potential to make transitional justice stronger, more credible and more efficient.”

Academia and NGOs have a lot to learn from each other

“After a few years in a purely academic position, I developed a research unit on Dealing with the Past at swisspeace in Bern. This led me to work more closely with legal practitioners and UN Rapporteurs, and I found the dialogue between academics and legal workers highly stimulating. It was with this positive experience in mind that I applied to join the Board of TRIAL International: NGOs and academia have a lot to learn from each other.

As a non-lawyer, I think I can add an original perspective to the Board. I may not bring concrete legal expertise to the table, but I hope to broaden the conversation as well as tightening the bonds between TRIAL International and European research centers.”

Overcoming the crisis of legitimacy

“International justice is undergoing a severe crisis of legitimacy. To overcome this skepticism, NGOs need to put their legal work into a broader political context. As well as litigating cases, questioning their own assumptions and perceptions on transitional justice is key to remaining as open and collaborative as possible, including with actors with a different perspective.”