Transitional Justice

What is Transitional Justice?

Transitional justice mechanisms help to lay the foundation required for long term peace and stability in areas that have experienced violent conflict and authoritarianism. This is done by acknowledging past abuses, filling the accountability gap and putting in place guarantees of non-recurrence.

Transitional justice comprises 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. These may include both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, with differing levels of international involvement (or none at all) and individual prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking, institutional reforms, vetting and dismissals, or a combination thereof.

International Criminal Justice

Criminal prosecutions are the most visible form of transitional justice processes. They are aimed at ensuring that those responsible for committing crimes, including serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross violations of international human rights law, are tried in accordance with international standards of fair trial.  Canada has consistently maintained that individuals who are responsible for committing the most serious international crimes – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – should be held accountable.

Canada’s Support to International Transitional Justice

The principles and practice of transitional justice are consistent with the priority Canada attaches to the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, as well as Canada’s strong commitment to the protection of civilians in in fragile and conflict-affected situations. Canada also acknowledges that justice during and after post-conflict or post-authoritarian situations is a long-term process that requires a comprehensive, inclusive and flexible approach that is sensitive to political, cultural and gender considerations.

In support of this policy, Canada was active in the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and continues to promote its universal ratification. Canada has been a strong supporter of other ad hoc international and hybrid tribunals, including the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which completed its final trial with the May 2012 conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Canada, through START’s Global Peace and Security Fund, also supports national and international transitional justice efforts in other fragile and conflict-affected states, including Sudan, Colombia and Guatemala, as well as the Justice Rapid Response, a multilateral stand-by facility of active duty criminal justice and related professionals ready to deploy quickly to identify, collect and preserve information about crimes under international law and massive human rights violations.