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Research in Post-Conflict Environments

research is situated in the post conflict environment

The research is situated in the post conflict environment of Sierra Leone and it seeks to understand the victim’s and community perception and participation in transitional justice environments and mechanisms.

The research question of the proposed qualitative case study is: “How effective are internationally-led transitional justice courts in addressing the past grievances of victims and the community in rebuilding Sierra Leone?”

The research is based on the premise that the effectiveness of the transitional justice courts in addressing the past grievances of victims and community in Sierra Leone should be based on the perspectives of the victims and community. In this, it takes a different stance from those taken in previous studies on this issue that have tested the efficacy of transitional justice mechanisms on the basis of international law and principles, rule of law or other such prescriptive approach that is usually based on the understanding of the working of the courts and institutions. Admittedly there are studies that have taken a qualitative approach and based on perspectives, but this research is different from those studies in the key area that while those studies use the elitist perspectives to define the efficacy of transitional justice mechanisms, this study puts the victims and community members at the centre for drawing its conclusions. Therefore, the results of this study will possibly be different from the other studies as a different perspective is taken into consideration in this study.

Specifically, the study seeks to examine the perspectives towards ICC transitional justice programme in Sierra Leone to test its effectiveness as a model for peacebuilding in the post-conflict society of Sierra Leone. As mentioned earlier, it will test the ICC model of justice from the perspective of victims and other key stakeholders to establish its effectiveness in justice delivery. Crucially, the study seeks to identify the most effective transitional justice model that has the potential to address the fundamentals of war crimes and deliver justice from the perspective of victims and key stakeholders in the affected society.

Background of the Research

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was created in 1992 after it was requested upon by the Sierra Leonean government. It was meant to try the RUF, it was not a UN tribunal and it did not have Chapter 7 powers and therefore, it exercised a very limited mandate. It was set up to try only those with gravest responsibility and for only crimes committed in Sierra Leone after November 30, 1996 and not those in the earlier years of the conflict. However, it was unique and heralded as a new model for international justice and as divergent from Rwanda and Yugoslavia model that were far away from the country that they were adjudicating on and too expensive and time consuming in their process. Unlike ICTY and ICTR, Sierra Leone had dual TRC (hybrid) and Special Court approach and was the first to have had both retributive and restorative mechanisms operating concurrently. However, it was based on voluntary donation and therefore there was an opportunity of cost on what their meagre resources have to be spent on. This comes at the expense of some victim groups and against capacity building which the court was aiming to do. The court was at some point on the brink of bankruptcy and added to this was the lack of strong judicial leaderships and a failure to draw upon expertise at the international level which if used could have undermined the claim of the uniqueness of the court and which was seen to improve the capacity of the local judiciary.

This raised a lot of questions. Some of these questions are: can we can quantify justice? can we put a price on it? can we have cost effective model of justice delivery? who defines the model and at what cost can it be obtained?

The fact is, there was no involvement with local judiciary and the communities and this led to the disengagement not only with them but with victims as well. Community members were not involved in the definition of ‘gravest responsibility’ which was a prosecutorial responsibility of the prosecutor, David Crane. Worst perpetrators were not prosecuted and some benefit were given for special witnesses for the prosecution and there was a feeling that the money spent on the court could have been better spent in supporting victims than on lawyers and processing witnesses. Few Sierra Leoneans were in senior position in the court; the court was disconnected from the national court and perpetrators were found guilty on the basis of the international law and not on Sierra Leonean law. This raised the question whether the special court truly reflected an hybrid model. Another important question raised is whether the model of justice delivery could be said to be effective from the perspective of Sierra Leoneans, based as it was on international perspectives. There is a possibility that the justice delivery system alienated the victims and the community members. In that case, the perspectives of these victims and community members become essential to be heard so that proper conclusions can be drawn as to the effectiveness and acceptability of the transitional justice mechanisms.

The Appropriateness of Case Study Research Design

Qualitative research design has been chosen for the conducting of this case study. A case study research design involves the comprehensive examination of a phenomenon using various tools or perspectives in order to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of a specific issue (Yin, 2013). Case studies tend to be flexible because of the multiple strategies available within the research design. In this study, the data collection tools will be semi-structured interviews and focus group discussion. The flexibility in case study research design “also allows for the discovery or elaboration of information that is important to participants but may not have previously been thought of as pertinent by the research team” (Gill et al., 2008, p. 292).

The specific case that will serve as the main focus of the study is transitional justice mechanisms in the context of post conflict Sierra Leone based on the perspectives of community leaders and victims of the conflict. As such, there are many challenges that are faced by the researcher that are in some way typical of the challenges faced in such research projects. Any social science research is complicated due to the issues of problems of access, sampling, ethics, etc. (Bowd & Ozerdem, 2010). These problems often get magnified in post conflict studies, such as the one involved in this research. Moreover, due to the post conflict stage in the area of research, there are other complex problems that may be faced by the researcher. Due to this reason, some researchers recommend the expansion of methodological techniques, so as to be enabled to meet the complex challenges of post conflict research or research conducted in post conflict environment or PCE (Bowd & Ozerdem, 2010).

Transitional Justice Mechanisms as a Norm in Post Conflict Environments

Transitional justice mechanisms have now become orthodox in post conflict environments as seen in the examples of countries such as Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, among many others. This is now the typical response to gross human rights violations. This response is motivated by the desire of the international community to initiate post conflict peace or as a legal response to crimes committed by the perpetrators or participants in the conflict (Robins, 2010). Such interventions leave little scope for the examination of the individuals or communities that are involved in the conflict. This is due to the prescriptive approach, which only focusses on the unidimensional issues related to such processes, such as, international law and transnational justice, or the working of the International Criminal Court in such situations.

Transitional justice mechanisms have now come to be frequently adopted in many post conflict African nations. Usually, the decision to adopt these mechanisms, is made by the government of the day. The larger perspective on the implementation of these measures is usually not sought, nor heard. Local perceptions may actually vary greatly on this issue. In particular, it is seen in the perspective of granting amnesty to perpetrators. In Sierra Leone, post conflict period has seen the adoption of the transitional justice mechanism. The Lomé Peace Accord of 1999, granted amnesty to Foday Sankoh, the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, and the combatants of the RUF. These popular perspectives may be at a variance with the government position or the perspectives of the elites.

The Significance of Missing the Narratives in Post Conflict Research on Transitional Justice Mechanisms – Victims and Community Perspectives

Even where studies on Sierra Leone in the context of transitional justice mechanisms are conducted; even when these studies utilize interview methods, unfortunately, these interviews are limited to Public officials, UN officials, TRC officials, and members of the civil society (Apori-Nkansa, 2008). Needless to say, the interviewees’ belonged to the Centre rather than the periphery of the conflict impacted areas. As such, the different narratives were missed in the research and their ideas and perspectives did not form part of the findings of the study, which in the opinion of this researcher, compromises the findings of the research, limited as they are only to specific sections of the society.

Victim perspectives often get neglected in research involving post-conflict situations. Post-conflict research involving third world nations by itself is complicated by diverse perspectives, which can be international, elitist, Western, or institutional oriented. This leaves little or no space for a discussion on the perspectives of the victims or the community affected by the conflict. At the same time, it is to be borne in mind that post-conflict situations present difficulties at times for victims to find a voice or be heard (Madlingozi, 2010). This is because the important decisions in the post-conflict nations often are taken by the regimes that come into power, or the influence of the international community becomes too great, as is seen in the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms in many post-conflict nations. Another important critique of the liberal peace that is sometimes also applied to transitional justice is that it is not sensitive enough to local context, and that it often ignores political and judicial histories, cultural worldviews (Sriram, 2007). It is also argued that such systems do not reflect the needs and desires of those people who are actually affected by past crimes (Sriram, 2007). In other words, the narratives of the victims are being ignored.

In this study, the research involves a focus on transitional justice programmes in post-conflict Sierra Leone. As mentioned above, there is an influence of the international perspective in establishing such mechanisms. It is generally considered that transitional justice mechanisms are motivated by the international community’s desire for initiating peace in post conflict situations; and that these mechanisms can also be seen as legal responses to crimes committed by the perpetrators or participants in the conflict (Robins, 2010). By their very definition, these interventions are focussed on the institution (i.e. transitional justice system such as International Criminal Court), or the government, or even the perpetrators, as these perpetrators are involved in the transitional justice mechanism. Unfortunately, such interventions leave little scope for the examination of the individuals, who may be victims in the conflict, or communities that are involved in the conflict. In this context, in a previous research, Madlingozi says:

“It is true that in some post-conflict situations or in situations of prolonged authoritarianism victims often lack the space or skills to speak for themselves vis-a`-vis elites – both state and others such as aid workers, NGO officials, and ‘academic migrant workers’. But the practice of speaking for and about victims further perpetuates their disempowerment and marginality. To be sure, as transitional justice experts, both from the First World and Third World, we appropriate the right to speak for victims by dint of our geopolitical and institutional privilege. In fact we must go further and assert that the transitional justice entrepreneur gets to be the speaker or representative on behalf of victims, not because the latter invited and gave her a mandate but because the entrepreneur sought the victim out, categorized her, defined her, theorized her, packaged her, and disseminated her on the world stage” (Madlingozi, 2010, pp. 210-11).

These are powerful words and allegations. These allegations are directed at academic scholars as well as elitists such as authority figures, aid workers, NGO workers, etc. It is their perspective that becomes more influential in the narrative on transitional justice mechanisms. In this, according to Madlingozi (2010), the victim becomes categorised and packaged for the consumption of the international community, which has its own viewpoint on the conflicts and the victims. However, the victim’s perspective gets neglected in the bargain. In fact, to make the point stronger, the author calls these people who write or talk on ‘behalf’ of the victims as “transitional justice entrepreneurs” (Madlingozi, 2010).

Previous research on such post conflict narratives on transitional justice mechanisms evidence the fact that researchers have focussed more on the prescriptive approach, which is unidimensional in nature and focusses only on the issues related to the processes involved in international law and transnational justice, for example, post-conflict research done on the working of the International Criminal Court. It is pertinent at this point to identify these studies and also examine the gaps in these studies. Some of these studies relate particularly to Sierra Leone and some studies relate to other post conflict nations in Africa.

One study has been conducted on the transitional justice mechanisms in Sierra Leone before. This study was qualitative in nature and the focus was on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Special Court engaged for transitional justice in post conflict Sierra Leone (Apori-Nkansa, 2008). The study collected data from documentary sources, observational field notes, as well as semi- structured interviews with open-ended questions from 31 individuals. These individuals were Sierra Leonean public officials, United Nations officials, and TRC and Special Court officials, and civil society actors. It is noteworthy that although the study did use semi-structured interview methods, but the result of the study is limited to understanding the perspectives of public officials in the Sierra Leonean government, UN officials, officials from the TRC, and members of the civil society (Apori-Nkansa, 2008). The victims and community members did not find a place in the study and neither were interviewed. Therefore, the data collected by the study demonstrated the attitudes of the authority figures but failed to capture the perspectives of the victims as well as community members. In that sense, the research was not descriptive of the views and narratives of the victims of the Sierra Leone war crimes and failed to capture their perspectives on transitional justice mechanisms in Sierra Leone. It is important to capture these viewpoints because it may be found that these are divergent from the views of those in the ‘centre’, as the views of those in the centre may be more influenced by international or Western concepts of justice, whereas the narratives of victims and community members may be different. This is also demonstrated in a research by Lee Ann Fujii in post conflict Rwanda, which is discussed below. Before discussing the research, Lee Ann Fujii’s views about urban bias and the ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’ should be taken into account:

“An urban bias does more than simply ignore the periphery. An urban bias does more than simply ignore the periphery. It assumes that what goes on inside the capital is the same as what goes on outside, that politics in the periphery will mirror or mimic politics in the centre. As numerous ethnographies and microlevel studies have shown, however, politics and violence rarely flow from the centre in an unmitigated form. Mediating factors, such local power interests, almost always come into play. Rwanda was no exception” (Fuji, 2011, p. 76).

Considering these words, the research that has been hitherto carried on into Sierra Leonean transitional justice mechanisms, also show the urban bias that becomes inevitable when voices in the periphery go unheard. The communities and victims of the violence need to be heard so that different narratives can be taken into account and research does not become unidimensional.

Lee Ann Fujii’s research was conducted in the post-conflict Rwanda and as a qualitative research, it was focused on gathering data from different actors and participants in the conflict. This research was critical of the fact that most post conflict work is conducted “in the Centre” and that literature often prefers the Centre to the periphery, showing an urban bias (Fuji, 2011). In order to bring back the focus of the research towards the narratives of the victims, communities and even perpetrators of the violence, the study involved data collection from these voices in the periphery. Fujji kept her interview questionnaire open-ended, consistently asking the same question to all participants as to their memories of the period of 1990 to 1994 (Fujii, 2011, p. 77). By keeping this open-ended question constant, she gave each interviewee the opportunity to define their experiences and perceptions. Her research is important because she was able to show the different perceptions and narratives in different communities, all of which were involved in the same conflict. In the context of Sierra Leone, such a research has not been conducted before. The perspectives of the victims and community in transitional justice mechanisms have not been taken into consideration and therefore the opinions of these people have not been able to derive different contexts into which such research can be structured. Instead research continues to be guided by Western or international perspectives that focus on unidimensional prescriptive issues.

Even if it is considered that post conflict research narrative is highly influenced by international or universal perspectives, there may be a counter- argument that such a perspective is also valid in creating a context within which transitional justice mechanisms may be tested. However, such an argument would miss an important point in failing to recognize that the universal or international perspectives may not find resonance within the communities in Sierra Leone. In fact, many of the international perspectives and concepts such as, internationally-led transitional justice courts, transitional justice mechanisms, notions of failed states, etc., may not be concepts that are easily understood by the communities.

In a research conducted by Evoy and McConnachie (2013), the authors were focused on the victim perception of the transitional justice mechanisms in almost 12 different nations. The authors begin on the premise that current literature is not really focused on critiques of transitional justice mechanisms in context of victims. Where victims form part of such critiques it is usually in the context of “managing the victims” in the larger framework of the institutions themselves (McEvoy & McConnachie, 2013). Even where victims form part of the study, it is for the purpose of “self-legitimisation” (McEvoy & McConnachie, 2013, p. 490). Victims may also be used for the attainment of some broader or larger political or social goals (McEvoy & McConnachie, 2013). The research carried out by the authors in the larger context of the different jurisdictions involves a comparative research, which the authors attempt to justify on the basis of such research’s ability to “extract and examine broad themes and to be attuned to context-specific variables while developing interpretative and explanatory strategies which can be tested according to ‘cosmopolitan and not only local criteria’” (McEvoy & McConnachie, 2013, p. 491). The authors are concerned that the victim perspective has become one of agency where the victims are ‘spoken for’ by others, who may be NGO activists, civil society members, etc. Due to this, the narrative that is coming out on the post-conflict research on transitional justice mechanisms, which show these mechanisms in a positive light, does not necessarily portray the actual feelings or desires of the victims or the community because the victims are not directly involved in divulging their perspectives. Rather, through an agency, there are others who speak on behalf of the victim but they do not necessarily speak the language of the victim. Here, the authors share the opinion of a community member in Northern Uganda on the International Criminal Court, as:

“Some of the big international human rights NGOs who have done work on Northern Uganda have not really listened to voice of the community. The community here was in favour of the amnesty because they saw the soldiers in the LRA [Lords Resistance Army] as victims, as their children. Yet the NGOs came here, they did their surveys, pushed for the ICC and they said, the community does not want this amnesty. They said that because they wanted to promote international law which forbids amnesties. But that is not what the community was saying, I don’t believe it!” (McEvoy & McConnachie, 2013, p. 499)

Ultimately, the authors (McEvoy & McConnachie, 2013) are focused on understanding victimhood, blame and agency and how these impact transitional justice studies. One can understand that the authors are concerned with ascribing some role to the victims in the discourse revolving around transitional justice mechanisms. However, as most other studies, the exact role is not defined in the study.

It is important to ask as to what kind of role is played by the victim in actual shaping of the transitional justice mechanisms. According to some scholars, the role that the victim plays is negligible. For instance, one author traces the treatment of victims by international tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo, the International Criminal Tribunal at Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal at Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone etc., and found that “sparse consideration was given to victims’ views and concerns and only limited space was given to their engagement with such institutions other than as prosecution witnesses” (Ferstman, 2010, p. 407). It is important to remember that the victims of violence are the central figures in the violence. These victims may be contextualized from the perspective of gender, in the sense that women form a different narrative in conflict situations where rape and sexual violence also become dominant themes of victimization. Contextualisation may also be done for children and old people as their victimization may involve different narratives. Considering this, their narrative must not be neglected in post conflict research involving perspectives on transitional justice systems. However, the narratives of victims, such as women in context of sexual violence, often gets neglected because the approach of the research is focused on other participants. For example, one study has described advocacy for recognition of victims of sexual violence at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia as like “shouting from the bottom of a well” (Mertus, 2009, p. 110). Yet another study on transitional justice mechanisms has found victims of sexual violence are frustrated with the process’s apathy towards them at the Special Tribunal in Sierra Leone (Staggs, Kelsall, & Stepakoff, 2007). The reason for the gaps in victims’ approaches in transitional justice mechanisms and research on the same is the fact that neither these mechanisms, nor the studies undertaken on these mechanisms, actually consider victims to be the subjects of the research. Rather, the approach towards victims is that of treating them as objects of the research. This is troublesome considering that conflict narrative necessarily is about the victims themselves. This is also found in another research, where the researcher has explored the instances and ways in which international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are involved in the processes of International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda were considered as ‘subjects’ of the research. In the sense that these were the important players who could influence policy and procedure. At the same time, Rwandan victims and survivor groups were considered as objects (Haslam, 2011). This objectification of victims leads to their not being a central figure in the research process or the actual institutional process of the transitional justice mechanisms.

One of the principal reasons why victims may find themselves relegated to the side lines of discourse is due to the over involvement or over utilization of the elites in the discourse. African centric research, from the Western perspective, can sometimes focus only on African elites for drawing out information. Elites, that is, members of the government, civil society activists, community leaders, or journalists, are generally easier to access, are well-informed, and speak English, French or Portuguese, making it easier for Western researchers to speak with them. Undoubtedly, a useful component in data-collection, interviewing elites, also suffers from certain drawbacks. The most prominent drawback is that African elites do show a disposition towards a Western worldview, which may shape their perceptions and understanding about important phenomena, such as morality, group identity and politics, and may differ widely from the viewpoint of the majority population (Longman, 2013). In transitional justice studies, this problem has been regularly noted (Longman, 2013). There is a tendency to ignore popular perspectives. Transitional justice mechanisms have now come to be frequently adopted in many post conflict African nations. Usually, the decision to adopt these mechanisms, is made by the government of the day. The larger perspective on the implementation of these measures is usually not sought, nor heard. Local perceptions may actually vary greatly on this issue. In particular, it is seen in the perspective of granting amnesty to perpetrators.

In a study, the researcher raises important issues regarding transitional justice mechanisms (Young, 2013). The researcher asks three questions: “what assumptions define the post-conflict justice models commonly promoted by the international community? Whose interests are these intended to serve? And is it possible to identify a disconnect between internationally designed systems of justice and the needs of local populations?” (Young, 2013, p. 4). These questions are similar to the ones that are raised in this study. Moreover, the case study selected by the researcher in that study is Sierra Leone. Here, the researcher focusses on the theory of transitional justice mechanisms and the principle of rule of law in the context of Sierra Leone. Ultimately, the researcher finds that there are certain specific shortcomings in the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (Young, 2013). This research analyses both the SCSL as well as the TRC. However, the critique of these two mechanisms in the study are based on prescriptive research and the actual victim centric approach is missing in this research. For instance, the study mentions the “the pursuit of international norms and jurisprudence resulted in a number of instances in which fairness and due process—especially in relation to the rights of the accused and problems of precedent and nullum crimen sine lege in landmark rulings on child soldiers, gender-oriented crimes, and joint criminal enterprise—were sacrificed, rendering the Court’s neutrality and conceptual coherence doubtful” (Young, 2013, p. 10). While this is a legitimate concern and is duly noted in the research, the study still does not tell us how the victims and the community view the system or mechanisms of the transitional justice. Ultimately the indictment of the author of the transitional justice mechanisms in Sierra Leone, is not based on victim and community perspectives, rather it is based on the author’s correlation of these mechanisms to contemporary theory of transitional justice mechanisms and the principle of rule of law. While commendable in itself, this does not help us to understand the value of these mechanisms, or whether these mechanisms are effective from the perspective of the victims or the community members.

In another study, the author considers transitional justice mechanisms in Sierra Leone and Mozambique (Bartoli, 2014). The study points out the advantages of transitional justice mechanisms, such as, the Truth Commission in Sierra Leone. The study says that such a mechanism helps to “foster not only a common understanding and acknowledgement of a country’s horrific past, but also establish a solid foundation for the construction of a durable peace” (Bartoli, 2014). The author also places some importance on the indigenous forms of achieving healing for the community, such as those adopted in post-conflict Mozambique. However, the author is also critical of the transitional justice mechanisms on the grounds that:

“While mechanisms such as truth-commissions act as a ‘symbolic’ reparation through its recognition of victimhood, such terms need to be both defined and contextualised in order to minimise the likelihood of misinterpretation and disillusionment. Methods of transitional justice used in isolation have a tendency to be disregarded as nothing more than words. As such, memorialisation becomes insincere without robust efforts; reparations are viewed as ‘blood money’ in an attempt to buy silence if no other transitional justice measures are employed; and reforming institutions becomes ineffective and unlikely to succeed without an attempt to satisfy victim’ expectations of justice, truth and reparation” (Bartoli, 2014).

Unfortunately, like much of the research on this issue, some of which is discussed above, the opinions in the study are not based on, or given after consideration of, victim and community perception of the transitional justice mechanisms. This is a consistent gap that is seen in many of similar studies in post conflict situations where the transitional justice mechanisms are studied, but without the taking into consideration of the different narratives that should form part of such studies in order to give them more holistic view point and conclusions.

In another study, the author tries to draw parallels between the transitional justice environments and criminal processes in nations by arguing that deriving lessons from transitional justice mechanisms in context of victim approach is useful (Doak, 2015). The author points out the important areas in transitional justice mechanisms that can be cross fertilized into criminal law of settled communities. Here, the author mentions truth recovery as an important objective of the transitional justice environment. The author states that “Truth recovery in transitional justice frameworks often goes beyond the idea of a factual’ or ‘forensic’ truth, and emphasises the need to explore a broader form of truth which is capable of giving insights into the political, social, and ideological context by which their actions are understood” (Doak, 2015, p. 4). Even if this is supposed to be a fact of the transitional justice environment, there is research that shows that the truth is not really heard from the perspectives of the victims (Sriram, 2007) and that the actual speakers are the agents of the victims and communities who do not even represent the actual perspectives (McEvoy & McConnachie, 2013). Moreover, research shows that usually the perspectives that really get heard in the transitional justice environments are those of the elites: the authority figures, scholars, NGO activists and civil society members (Fuji, 2011). Also important to mention here is that at times the international perspective or the Western perspective gains prominence and the utility of the transitional justice mechanisms is seen more in the international context than the local context (Madlingozi, 2010). It is also worrisome that the study as well as the process treats the victims as the objects and not the subjects (Haslam, 2011). Considering this, the actual truth in the Truth Commissions is a doubtful exercise unless the truth is heard directly by the victims and the community members. For this the intervening factors of agents, international perspectives, treatment of activists as subjects, have to be sidelined and the victims and community leaders have to be approached directly. To be sure, the author is also mindful of these drawbacks of the Truth Commissions in the context of victim approaches, as it is mentioned that “empirical studies suggest that victims’ experiences with such institutions are far from perfect. In the case of South Africa, for example, many victims reported that their expectations had not been met and only few victims felt that they had received the ‘truth’ that had been promised to them” (Doak, 2015, p. 5). The author mentions another value in transitional justice environments that can be emulated in the settled communities. This is the higher level of participation of victims in the transitional justice environments. The author admits that earlier the level of victim participation in discourse was negligible (Doak, 2015, p. 7), however, he believes that there is a greater level of victim participation in the recent literature and discourse. Yet, as discussed earlier, this is still negligible in most jurisdictions, and there is little to none research conducted in the context of Sierra Leone where the victims and community leaders have been majority participants. Undoubtedly, there is greater literature that shows the relevance of victim participation in post conflict research into transitional justice mechanisms (McEvoy & McConnachie, 2013; Staggs, Kelsall, & Stepakoff, 2007).

Here, the research by Madlingozi is pertinent. First, the question that Madlingozi asks at the beginning of his article is important. He asks: “What kinds of politics are (re)produced when a transitional justice expert seeks out the victim, elects to rescue him from his marginality, categorizes him and represents him on the world stage?” (Madlingozi, 2010, p. 208). The answer given is that the result is the creation of a transitional justice entrepreneurship which sees the victims being relegated to the sidelines and the centre being occupied by more powerful voices (Madlingozi, 2010).

In the conflict situations, these stories may demonstrate varied experiences in the conflict. Conflict and post conflict research becomes challenging because there are layers of narratives that the researcher may have to address (Longman, 2013). In this research, the perceptions on transitional justice are being studied. In a similar research earlier, involving post conflict Burundi and Rwanda, Longman has used qualitative research methodology to construct a survey that was used to gather information on sensitive subjects, including the interpretations of the past, and perceptions and attitudes towards justice and reconciliation (Longman, 2013).

Interview methods are also useful in conflict situations. However, here the method would have to be widely employed in order to get a larger and fairer idea of the situation. These victim and community members’ perspectives may be at a variance with the government position or the perspectives of the elites. This was recorded in the earlier research into Rwanda transitional justice mechanisms, particularly, the perception towards the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The general perception for academics, fueled by the government reports and elite perceptions, was that the public of Rwanda was opposed to the Tribunal. The research however, showed that there may be a ‘mild’ disapproval for the Tribunal, due to the lack of knowledge about the working of the Tribunal. But perceptions recorded through survey did not show the grave opposition as was then presumed (Longman, 2013).


Research studies into Sierra Leone and transitional justice mechanisms show that victims and community members’ perspectives are still missing from these studies. Considering the research that has already attested to the value of such perspectives, it is clear that such research will add to the existing literature and bring other perspectives into the narratives, making it more multi-dimensional. Earlier research has shown the dissatisfaction experienced by victims at not being included into the narratives (Clamp & Doak, 2012). The present research wants to take this further by actually situating the victim and community perspectives in the centre of the research by using a qualitative method for collecting and analyzing data from interviews conducted of the victims and community members.

Appendix One

  • How would you describe your experience during your transition from war to rehabilitation in Sierra Leone?
  • How would you describe the role of leadership during this transition?
  • How effective is the leadership in the rebuilding of Sierra Leone post-war?
  • What specific processes or instances helped in rebuilding Sierra Leone after the war?
  • Can you describe how the grievances of victims of the war were addressed? How effective were they?
  • Do you think the process of transition post-war is the same for every country? In what ways?
  • What are the strengths of the rebuilding process in Sierra Leone?
  • How did certain decisions or practices facilitate positive change in Sierra Leone?
  • What are the weaknesses of rebuilding process in Sierra Leone?
  • How did certain decisions or practices impede positive change in Sierra Leone?
  • How did certain decisions or practices impede positive change in Sierra Leone?
  • Focus Group Questions (Victims of War Crimes in Sierra Leone)
  • What were your experiences after the war?
  • Were your grievances and concerns addressed?
  • Since the war ended, have you been able to get your life back?
  • What is your experience of the rebuilding process?
  • How effective do you think is the rebuilding process?
  • How was the process of finding out the truth handled?
  • How was the accountability of wrongdoing handled?
  • What specific grievances did you have that were successfully addressed? In what ways?
  • What specific grievances did you have that were not successfully addressed? In what ways?
  • Overall, how would you describe the leadership in Sierra Leone post war?


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  • Doak, J. (2015). Enriching trial Justice for crime victims in common law systems : lessons from transitional environments. International Review of Victimology, 21(2), 139-160.
  • Ferstman, C. (2010). International criminal law and victims’ rights. . In W. Schabas, Routledge Handbook of International Criminal Law (pp. 407-419). Oxon: Routledge.
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