A political approach to transitional justice: truthseeking mechanisms in south Africa and Guatemala

Thesis Type: Postgraduate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Turkey

Approval Date: 2020

Student: Damla Kuru



Transitional justice aims to confront violent past, systematic and widespread human rights violations through its unique mechanisms. This thesis initially focuses on the literature developed on transitional justice practices and truthseeking mechanisms with a specific look at two cases. The literature has been dominated by a legalist approach, and due to it overwhelm, the evaluation of transitional justice process as a political phenomenon is inadequate. Although the application of its unique legal mechanisms is critical to bring democracy and reconciliation and to avoid a falling back to the trap of revenge, the sole reliance on the legal measures neglects the political aspects of the problems at hand, is the major obstacle in reaching the desired objectives. Thus, transitional justice is in between the legal and the political; this paradoxical aspect of transitional leads problems in its implementation. The conflicting parties cannot have any possibility to constitute their politically active agencies, and they just can attend transitional justice process. To increase participation in transitional justice process could solve this fundamental paradox. This study analyses the establishment processes of truth-seeking mechanisms in South Africa and Guatemala around the participation problem. With references to Carl Schmitt’s conceptualization of state of exception, this study tries to show the significance of the establishment moments of the transitional justice. After an in-depth analysis of the existing literature on transitional justice and two case studies, this study tries to contribute to the literature to increase participation by applying Hannah Arendt’s concepts of plurality and publicity.