Transitional justice in the world, 1970-2007: Insights from a new dataset

Tricia D. Olsen, Leigh A. Payne, Andrew G. Reiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


This article presents a new dataset of transitional justice mechanisms utilized worldwide from 1970-2007. These data complement the growing body of quantitative and comparative analyses of transitional justice. This article summarizes three important contributions made by the dataset. First, it includes five transitional justice mechanisms (trials, truth commissions, amnesties, reparations, and lustration policies), allowing scholars to avoid many of the methodological errors committed by performing single-mechanism studies. Second, it provides an expanded sample, both temporally and geographically, to facilitate greater comparative and policy impact. Third, the dataset enables scholars to analyze transitional justice across a variety of political contexts, including democratic transitions and civil wars. These data illuminate a new set of general trends and patterns in the implementation of transitional justice worldwide. The findings show that countries adopt amnesties more often than other mechanisms. They predominantly grant them in the context of civil war and to opponents of the state, rather than state agents. Courts rarely prosecute those currently in power for human rights violations. In civil war settings, rebels, rather than state actors, face trials. In post-authoritarian settings, courts try former authoritarian actors, but do not address crimes committed by the opposition to authoritarian rule. The dataset also reveals regional patterns of mechanism usage. Trials, lustration policies, and reparations occur most often in Europe. Non-European countries more frequently adopt truth commissions and amnesties than do their European counterparts, with a particularly high number of amnesties granted in Latin America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-809
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • amnesties
  • justice
  • transitional trials
  • truth commissions


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