Transitional justice refers to a variety of measures that aim to address large-scale or systematic human rights violations in societies emerging from repression or mass violence. This chapter reviews the interdisciplinary literature on transitional justice with a particular focus on empirical studies attempting to uncover its effects on individuals affected by violence and repression, including victims, perpetrators, and communities at large. We first consider retributive and restorative justice as two distinct notions of justice that are of primary concern in the aftermath of mass atrocities, and then zoom in on the psychological implications of major transitional justice measures. These measures include criminal trials, truth commissions, material and symbolic reparations, as well as grassroot and hybrid measures. In addition, we discuss the case of impunity, or the absence of transitional justice. Our review highlights the advantages and limitations of different transitional justice measures in promoting human rights, peace, and reconciliation, and identifies directions for future research.

Keywords: mass violence, transitional justice, retributive justice, restorative justice, human rights

Mengyao Li

Mengyao Li is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast. Prior to joining Queen’s, Mengyao was a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods and obtained her PhD from the Peace and Violence Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her research lies at the intersection of social, political, and peace psychology. It broadly focuses on the psychological processes of intergroup conflicts and their resolution, group-based violence, national and ethnic identity, transitional justice, as well as civil resistance and social change.

Bernhard Leidner

Bernhard Leidner was Full Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. He was internationally known for his research on intergroup violence, international conflict (reduction), and justice, primarily in the context of large social categories such as nations and ethnic groups.