Transitional Justice | Rebel Governance | Repression | Methodology


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

“Escaping Justice: Masking Impunity for State Crimes”.

Who is held to account for past crimes is a product of the wrongs a person or group has committed but also the power of others to press claims for accountability. The threat of justice can be pernicious and so a state must work to limit the potential for the government and state agents to be held to account. If a government has an incentive to escape justice, how do we ever hold states accountable for their crimes?

In this book I examine cases of large-scale episodes of state violence to study the variation in the ways in which a government did or did not hold its own to account—Rwanda, Northern Ireland, and Uganda. In all three of these cases the abuses of the state have been well documented despite the complexities of violence in each of these countries. For this reason these should be easy cases of state accountability in which perpetrators of human rights crimes can and should be held to account for their actions. But this has not been the case. In each of these countries there has been a concerted attempt on the part of the government to escape justice. I advance a novel theoretical argument about the strategic logic behind justice and accountability for past abuses underlying government behavior. Specifically, I trace how transitional justice institutions are selected and structured to advance government impunity often in direct opposition to the international goals of the liberal peace. Understanding this process will help researchers and policymakers recognize 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 outcomes.

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 Malmin Binningsbø. Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(2): 2018.
  • “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 Malmin 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.


Rebel Governance

My research in this area seeks to better understand governance and legitimacy by rebel groups. I am particularly intersted in judicial and quaisi-jusdicial process and their longterm impacts.

Work in Progress

  • "The Long Term Impact of Rebel Rules"

What are the long-term impacts of rebel judicial systems on the post-conflict judiciary? The study of rebel governance has focused primarily on the rationale for the use of rebel institutions and the impact of those choices on the conflict itself. Rebel courts and judicial systems are seen as an attempt to usurp the legitimacy of the state. Subsequently these courts can also have an impact on the rebels and citizens under rebel rule. If effective, this challenge to state legitimacy can have long term implications for the independence and functioning of the judicial system once conflict has ended. Using new data on rebel judiciaries across armed conflicts from 1948 through 2017, this paper examines variation in the structure, sophistication, and civilian support of rebel courts in order to better understand the ways in which these courts impact the long term functioning of the post-conflict judiciary.

Selected Publications


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.

Selected Publications

  • “Some Left to Tell the Tale: Finding Perpetrators, Understanding Violence & Missing Rwandan Murders in the Middle” with Christian Davenport. Journal of Peace Research 57(4) 2020.
  • “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