Transitional Justice | Repression | Methodology


Conflict Studies, Transitional Justice, and Human Rights


Transitional Justice

My research in this area seeks to better understand the implementation and functioning of justice institutions both during and after conflict and a government’s role in asserting control through these processes.

Book Manuscript

“Regimes of Truth: The Strategic Use of Post-Conflict Justice”.

Despite the increasing global prevalence of transitional justice tools, little work has been undertaken to understand the use and misuse of these measures by the governments which put them in place. In my book, I address the limitations in the existing literature and develop a theory of transitional justice adoption which focuses on the strategic use of transitional justice to further aims of government political consolidation in the post-conflict period. I expand existing work on democratic consolidation to focus on the necessary conditions for political consolidation more broadly and argue that transitional justice is a useful tool in achieving that aim. I apply this theory to answer two main research questions: under what conditions do governments choose to adopt transitional justice and what factors influence the structure of the processes put in place. These questions are addressed through a multi-methods approach including country case studies conducted in Rwanda and Uganda as well as a quantitative analysis of transitional justice adoption and process structure relying on existing data collected as part of the Post-Conflict Justice dataset (Binningsbø et al. 2012). The overarching motivation guiding this project is the desire to increase our knowledge of government motivation for adopting transitional justice institutions in order to better understand their consequences. Addressing these questions will help researchers and policymakers understand the conditions and incentives for transitional justice to be put in place as well as monitor the creation of these measures to ensure the most successful outcome.

Work In Progress
  • “Justice During Armed Conflict: Addressing Grievance or Projecting State Strength”

Governments challenged by violent insurgent groups use a variety of tactics during their fight. Commonly used are judicial and quasi-judicial processes, adopted to address wrongdoings committed during the war. These processes include trials, truth commissions, reparations, amnesties, purges, and exiles. In 58% of the 204 internal armed conflicts since WWII the government initiated at least one type of during-conflict justice (DCJ) process. What accounts for the prevalence of these processes during-conflict and what is their intended objective? In this paper, I argue that governments use DCJ in an attempt to undermine support for rebel organizations through encouraging defections among rebels and rebel supporters. I test this argument using new data collected on DCJ processes implemented between 1946 and 2011.

  • “Prosecution, Punishment, or Persecution? Gacaca, Justice, and the Elimination of Rwandan Political Challengers” with Christian Davenport and Priyamvada Trivedi.

In 2001, the government of Rwanda began a pilot to test the efficacy of a community justice program, Gacaca, which would serve as the primary mechanism for accountability and reconciliation for rank-and-file participants of the genocide in 1994. Using data on Gacaca prosecutions and mass political violence, we test competing arguments regarding the use and/or mis-use of Gacaca. From our analysis, we find that rather than advancing accountability through prosecutions as the international community had hoped by targeting areas that engaged in the largest amount of genocide violence, Gacaca has generally served as a tool of state repression targeting areas of threat to the government and eliminating potential political rivals by following demographic concentrations of young men.

  • “Amnesty as a Weapon of War: Government Strength and Justice Processes During Conflict” with Scott Gates and Helga Malmin Binningsbø.
Selected Publications
  • “Justice during armed conflict from 1949 through 2011: A new dataset” with Helga Binningsbø. Journal of Conflict Resolution (Forthcoming)

  • “Transitional Justice and Political Order in Rwanda.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 41(4): 2018.

  • “Post-Conflict Justice and Conflict Recurrence: Addressing Motivations and Opportunities for Sustainable Peace” with Benjamin Appel. International Studies Quarterly 61(3): 2017.

  • “Transitional InJustice: Subverting Justice in Transition and Post-Conflict Societies” with Christian Davenport. Journal of Human Rights 15(1): 2016.

  • “Armed Conflict and Post-Conflict Justice, 1946-2006: A Dataset” with Helga Binningsbø, Jon Elster and Scott Gates. Journal of Peace Research 49(5) September 2012.

  • “The Economic Benefits of Justice: Post-Conflict Justice Foreign Direct Investment” with Benjamin Appel. Journal of Peace Research 49(5) September 2012.


State Repression and Human Rights

My research focuses on patterns of state repression in Northern Ireland and around the world, as well as the perpetrators of those violations.

Work In Progress
  • “Without a Trace: Enforced Disappearance as a Strategy During Armed Conflict”

In this study, I investigate the tactic of enforced disappearance during armed conflict using subnational data on over 1,800 disappearances during the civil war in Nepal between the government and the Maoists. I demonstrate that the use of this tactic varies according to the state reach in a given area. In particular, I find that enforced disappearances are more likely in areas of conflict where the state has little formal presence or ability to gather intelligence.

  • “Some Left to Tell the Tale: Finding Perpetrators, Understanding Violence & Missing Rwandan Murders in the Middle” with Christian Davenport. Under Review.

Scholars of political violence often face problems concerning data availability. Research on perpetrators of violence is no exception. We argue that existing research has largely missed the murderers in the middle or the group of perpetrators who performed their duties zealously but successfully evaded recognition once the violence ended. Missing this group has potential implications for research on participation in mass violence as well as our understanding of why this behavior occurs. We explore these pitfalls in the context of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Selected Publications
  • “The Northern Ireland Research Initiative: Data on the Troubles from 1968-1998” with Christopher Sullivan and Christian Davenport. Conflict Management and Peace Science 31(1) February 2014.

  • “The Coercive Weight of the Past: Temporal Dependence in the Conflict-Repression Nexus” with Christopher Sullivan and Christian Davenport. International Interactions 38(4): August 2012.

  • “Transforming Men Into Killers: Attitudes leading to hands-on violence during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide” with Dr. Reva Adler, Dr. J. Globerman and Dr. E. Larson. Global Public Health 3(3) July 2008: 291-307.

  • “A Calamity in the Neighborhood: Women’s Participation in the Rwanda Genocide” with Reva Adler and J. Globerman. Genocide Studies and Prevention 2(3) Winter 2008: 209-234.


Research Methodology

My field research in Rwanda, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Turkey, and Nepal has been challenging and at times dangerous. These experiences have led me to reflect on the obstacles to research in restrictive regimes.

Selected Publications