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Transitional Justice: Lessons for Sudan

Assisting Regional Universities in Sudan (ARUS)

Liv Tønnessen

Elin Skaar

This introduction to transitional justice gives you an overview of the most important terms and concepts within the field. It draws on experiences from countries that have been through transitional justice processes and provides insights into the way forward for countries that have recently come out of similar situations of long-lasting conflict with widespread human rights violations.

About this online resource

This online resource about transitional justice is developed specifically for our Assisting regional universities in Sudan (ARUS) programme and draws on international experiences and studies to provide valuable and relevant lessons for Sudan.

Central questions dealt with are: 

  • What can Sudan learn from transitional justice processes elsewhere in the world?
  • Can justice and accountability for past human rights abuses be delivered in Sudan any time soon?


The online resource consists of four short modules that deal with transitional justice in general and in the context of Sudan.

Part 1 provides a brief overview of what transitional justice is.

Part 2 discusses civil-military relations and different transitional justice solutions/options.

Part 3 discusses the courts and transitional justice.

Part 4 discusses the role of civil society in pushing for transitional justice.


When a country has been in a state of long-lasting conflict, it is not only the economy and institutions that have been damaged. Widespread human rights violations have caused immense suffering for people. How to deal with these human rights violations committed by different branches of the military, police, national security forces, or sometimes rebel groups, is often one of the most difficult tasks at hand for the new government. The different forms of dealing with human rights violations committed by an earlier regime are usually called transitional justice mechanisms.

A government coming out of conflict has to operate in many different arenas, and all these arenas require competences, skilled people, and resources. In fragile political settings, the top priority is often simply to ensure that peace actually lasts. This is why transitional justice sometimes, at least in the form of criminal prosecution, is put on hold.

Countries coming out of long-lasting conflict with massive human rights violations face many challenges. Among them are: 

  • To secure that the peace is not interrupted again by a military coup. This means that the government must try to avoid provoking the military.
  • To (re)establish and strengthen democratic institutions. If the functioning of central government institutions has been interrupted or not functioning during the conflict, a post-transitional government needs to put a parliament into place strengthen and make the courts function.
  • The new government must also try to get the economy going; ensure that people have health facilities; reopen schools so that children can go to school.

Achieving transitional justice in Sudan

The Constitutional Declaration negotiated between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) is guiding Sudan’s new transitional government; originally for a period of three years (August 2019-2022), but has later been extended with 14 months with the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement in October 2020. In these agreements, the transitional government promises to work for comprehensive peace and justice. This entails holding members of the Islamist regime accountable for all crimes committed against the Sudanese people. Can justice and accountability for past human rights abuses be delivered in Sudan any time soon? These are tall orders, especially considering that important military members of the old regime are key players in the transitional government structures. Justice usually takes a long time to achieve and requires political courage, judicial independence, and that the responsible are no longer key players in powerful positions.