Transitional Justice:
Tools for Confronting the Past

GUEST LECTURER: Dr. Judy Barsalou

Judy Barsalou is the fromer President of the El-Hibri Foundation. Prior to joining EHF in 2013, Dr. Barsalou was a visiting scholar at the American University in Cairo, where she conducted research about Egyptian views about justice and accountability in post-Mubarak Egypt.  Dr. Barsalou has two stints working for the Ford Foundation. Between 1982 and 1990, she served as a program officer in the Foundation’s New York headquarters and its Middle East and North Africa office, based in Cairo. From 2008-2011 she returned to Cairo as the Ford Foundation’s Representative for MENA region, managing a grant program that awarded approximately $13 million annually in grant funding.  Judy has also served as the Vice President of the Grant and Fellowship Program at the United States Institute of Peace; Executive Director of the Middle East Research and Information Project, which publishes Middle East Report; Director of Academic Programs at the Institute of Governmental Affairs, the University of California, Davis; and Program Officer at the Jerusalem Fund’s Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine. Her research focuses on transitional justice, including the role of memorials in social reconstruction; the challenges of teaching history in societies emerging from violent conflict; and trauma and transitional justice. She holds a B.A. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A., M. Phil and Ph.D. in comparative politics from Columbia University.


Dr. Barsalou discussed the origins and theory of transitional justice, which go back at least as far as ancient Rome. The example most modern people think of is the Nuremburg Trials. The field of transitional justice studies has only come into being over the last 30 years. It is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which express the norms by which we hope people (and nations) will treat each other. The UDHR overtly connects justice to democracy, but until the 1980s the most common mechanism used to “punish” offenses against human rights was shame. The belief was that nations pass through stages of development, and that until a nation reached an advanced stage, human rights were likely to be unimportant. However, in the 1980s and 90s critics began to question the “stages” framework, seeking to restore the importance of individual and community agency. There is now a growing body of work on the theory of justice during transitions, focused on victims of human rights violations and on the exit from authoritarianism to democracy. Keep Reading.




Nir Eisikovits, “Transitional Justice” from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Tina Rosenberg, Excerpts from The Haunted Land

Mark Danner, excerpt from New Yorker article on El Mozote massacre/Tina Rosenberg, Michael Ignatieff New Yorker reports on South Africa’s Truth Commission