Local Evaluations of Justice through Truth Telling in Sierra Leone: Postwar Needs and Transitional Justice

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This article presents findings from a qualitative case study of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in rural Sierra Leone. It adds to the sparse literature directly evaluating local experiences of transitional justice mechanisms. It investigates the conceptual foundations of retributive and restorative approaches to postwar justice, and describes the emerging alternative argument demanding attention be paid to economic, cultural, and social rights in such transitional situations. The article describes how justice is defined in Makeni, a town in Northern Sierra Leone, and shows that the TRC’s restorative approach was unable to generate a sense of postwar justice, and was, to many, experienced as a provocation. The conclusions support an alternative distributive conception of justice and show that local conception of rights, experiences of infringement and needs for redress, demand social, cultural, and economic considerations be taken seriously in transitional justice cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-535
Number of pages20
JournalHuman Rights Review
Issue number4
Early online date30 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011



  • transitional justice
  • Sierra Leone
  • truth commissions
  • economic rights
  • postwar peacebuilding

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