My dissertation is tentatively titled, “Punishing Perpetrators: The Unexpected Role of Retributive Justice in Reconciliation.” My dissertation research contributes to intensifying debates about the causes and consequences of different approaches to transitional justice. A core debate in human rights, transitional justice and post-conflict reconstruction is about the legitimacy, pragmatism and efficacy of retributive vs. restorative approaches to transitional justice. The conventional wisdom is that retributive justice, most associated with criminal prosecutions, impedes peace and reconciliation in transitional societies. Many academics and policy makers argue that restorative justice, most associated with truth commissions and reparations, is the most effective way to bring about reconciliation. Despite the global diffusion of the restorative justice discourse and the widespread adoption of truth commissions and reparations policies, there is little evidence that restorative justice “works” to bring about promised outcomes.

I resolve debates about the efficacy of retributive vs. restorative justice in two parts. In the first part, I examine the cross-national effects of criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, and reparations on human rights and peace. Because there are no cross-national measures of reconciliation, I turn to individual-level, attitudinal data to evaluate transitional justice’s effects on reconciliation. I conduct a randomized experimental field survey in Colombia to test if, how and under what conditions criminal punishment, non-criminal punishment, material reparations, symbolic reparations and narrative truth change citizens’ attitudes about and support for reconciliation. The analysis has theoretical implications for how we theorize justice and reconciliation and policy implications for how transitional societies address past human rights violations and settle internal armed conflict.


Part 1: Reconciliation in Global Politics

  1. Introduction: Does Transitional Justice Lead to Reconciliation?
  2. Reconciliation: Origins, Theories, Concepts and Measures
  3. Cross-National Evidence: State-Level Effects of Prosecutions, Truth Commissions and Reparations on Human Rights, Democracy and Peace (1970-2015)

Part 2: Results from A Randomized Field Experiment in Colombia

  1. Reconciliation in Colombia
  2. Reconciliation for Victims, Ethnic Subjects and Collective Communities
  3. Conclusion

To learn more about the field experiment, go here: NSF Field Experiment