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From Transitional to Transformative Justice (2019)

From Transitional to Transformative Justice - book cover

Edited by Paul Gready and Simon Robins

Transitional justice has become the principle lens used by countries emerging from conflict and authoritarian rule to address the legacies of violence and serious human rights abuses. However, as transitional justice practice becomes more institutionalized with support from NGOs and funding from Western donors, questions have been raised about the long-term effectiveness of transitional justice mechanisms. Core elements of the paradigm have been subjected to sustained critique, yet there is much less commentary that goes beyond critique to set out, in a comprehensive fashion, what an alternative approach might look like. This volume discusses one such alternative, transformative justice, and positions this quest in the wider context of ongoing fall-out from the 2008 global economic and political crisis, as well as the failure of social justice advocates to respond with imagination and ambition. Drawing on diverse perspectives, contributors illustrate the wide-ranging purchase of transformative justice at both conceptual and empirical levels.


Advance praise: 'Transitional justice arrived in the 1990s with great promise, but the results achieved to date have generally been modest at best. This excellent and cutting-edge volume convincingly argues for a more deeply transformative approach, and the various contributions are consistently critical, constructive, and thought-provoking. It is the rare volume that combines deep critique with serious engagement with practice.' Philip Alston - John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

Advance praise: 'This exciting and important volume explores the potential of transformative justice to radically reform transitional justice in ways that are at once imaginative, ambitious and emancipatory. It deserves to be widely read.' Andrea Cornwall - Head of the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex

Advance praise: 'An important shift is underway in the theory and normative practices associated with post-conflict justice, partly in response to the global expansion of neoliberalism and its impact on conflict-affected societies. This very interesting collection is probably the first volume to explore the tensions and dilemmas that are both driving and impeding the expansion of thinking about justice and associated practices into more transformative frameworks in everyday, rather than solely national or global, contexts.' Oliver Richmond - Associate Dean for Internationalisation, University of Manchester

Advance praise: 'This is a courageous and forward thinking book. In this collection of essays, Gready and Robins with their well-respected colleagues, have tackled the question of the definition of transitional justice; its limitations, goals, and future. By its focus on transitional justice as transformational justice with attention to local agency, process, pluralism, power, and structures of exclusion, the authors challenge the status quo and raise important questions about the understandings of justice and how meaningful change can occur. This book is an important step forward in the development of what is still a nascent field.' Harvey Weinstein - University of California, Berkeley; Co-Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the International Journal of Transitional Justice

Critical Perspectives of the Security and Protection of Human Rights Defenders (2016)

Edited by Karen Bennett, Danna Ingleton, Alice M Nah and James Savage

front cover of book

Since the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders in 1998, there has been considerable effort to recognise and protect the right of individuals, groups and communities to promote and protect their own rights and the rights of others.  Over time, a multi-level, multi-actor international protection regime for the rights of human rights defenders has emerged.  Authors in this book evaluate the effectiveness of international and regional protection mechanisms, and examine the relationship between repression, activism, and tactics for managing risks in the face of danger.

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Special Issue - Journal of Human Rights Practice (Volume 8 Issue 1 February 2016)

The Journal of Human Rights Practice is based at the Centre. 

jhrp cover publications page

"The JHRP has not only filled a very big gap in the human rights literature, but has succeeded in bringing a whole range of new perspectives to bear on the field. In a short period, it has established itself as amust-read journal for everyone interested in how human rights advocacy actually works, or doesn’t work, in practice."

Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University

Religious Actors and International Law (2014)

Ioana Cismas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)

Religious Actors and International Law (Ioana Cismas, 2014)

This book assesses whether a new category of religious actors has been constructed within international law. Religious actors, through their interpretations of the religion(s) they are associated with, uphold and promote, or indeed may transform, potentially oppressive structures or discriminatory patterns. This study moves beyond the concern that religious texts and practices may be incompatible with international law, to provide an innovative analysis of how religious actors themselves are accountable under international law for the interpretations they choose to put forward.

The book defines religious actors as comprising religious states, international organizations, and non-state entities that assume the role of interpreting religion and so claim a 'special' legitimacy anchored in tradition or charisma. Cutting across the state / non-state divide, this definition allows the full remit of religious bodies to be investigated. It analyses the crucial question of whether religious actors do in fact operate under different international legal norms to non-religious states, international organizations, or companies. To that end, the Holy See-Vatican, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and churches and religious organizations under the European Convention on Human Rights regime are examined in detail as case studies.

The study ultimately establishes that religious actors cannot be seen to form an autonomous legal category under international law: they do not enjoy special or exclusive rights, nor incur lesser obligations, when compared to their respective non-religious peers. Going forward, it concludes that a process of two-sided legitimation may be at stake: religious actors will need to provide evidence for the legality of their religious interpretations to strengthen their legitimacy, and international law itself may benefit from religious actors fostering its legitimacy in different cultural contexts.


"A fascinating book" Christina Cerna, American Journal of International Law

"Ioana Cismas tests the relationship between religious actors and their rights and obligations under international law in a most novel and compelling way. [A]n insightfully researched and very well written book represents a stimulating addition to the literature on non-state actors and human rights. In the end, it is another strong recognition that the present rules of international law not only regulate the behaviour of states, but also many other entities participating in the international sphere." Ezequiel Heffes, Human Rights Law Review

"[T]his book is a welcome and refreshing addition to the growing literature on religion and human rights. Human rights activists, diplomats, and scholars would benefit from paying more attention to religious actors and the ways to hold them accountable to international human rights law, rather than engaging in exegetical debates with them on the right way to interpret religious texts." Turan Kayaoglu, Global Policy

"This book makes an invaluable contribution to the growing scholarship in this field. It takes us beyond debate about whether religious doctrines-practices are compatible with international law, the classification of religious actors as essentially private entities, and the classical focus on the special rights associated with religion. In a set of meticulous case studies, the book proposes that religious actors do not form an autonomous category in international law, but are subject to norms also applicable to non-religious entities. Cismas is to be applauded for the innovative and challenging thesis that the best defence of their autonomy is to embrace human rights in their own internal governance and life in order to operate in a legitimate way in society and under international law." Norman Doe, Professor and Director, Centre for Law and Religion, Cardiff University

Human Rights and Development in the New Millennium - Towards a theory of change (2013)

Edited by Paul Gready and Wouter Vandenhole

‌In recent years human rights have assumed a central position in the discourse surrounding international development, while human rights agencies have begun to more systematically address economic and social rights. This edited volume brings together distinguished scholars to explore the merging of human rights and development agendas at local, national and international levels. They examine how this merging affects organisational change, operational change, and the role of relevant actors in bringing about change. With a focus on practice and policy rather than pure theory, the volume also addresses broader questions such as what human rights and development can learn from one another, and whether the connections between the two fields are increasing or declining.


"This collection of essays surveys recent policies and practices of diverse actors in applying human rights-based approaches to development. The editors and contributors have focused on social change, giving new meaning to both human rights and development as defining goals against which progress can be measured. Their careful analysis of the actual and potential transformative roles of legislation, litigation, mobilization, transnational advocacy, framing of social justice issues as human rights claims, participatory strategies, and capacity-building, as well as organizational change, brings new insights to human rights and development, from which practitioners and academics will benefit. Their ambition has been to make explicit the theories of change that have heretofore remained implicit and readers are likely to find this ambition fulfilled."
Stephen P. Marks, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of Health and Human Rights, and Director, Program on Human Rights in Development, Harvard University

"This book represents an important contribution to the second wave of human rights scholarship that moves beyond the justification and articulation of universal rights to probe how strategies in their name play out in politics, policy and practice. With case studies from the field of international development, and a cast of diverse organisations and actors on show, the book highlights some important conditions under which human rights approaches can generate social change."
Malcolm Langford, Research Fellow, University of Oslo and Visiting Professor, Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California (Berkeley)

The Era of Transitional Justice - The Aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and Beyond (2011)

Paul Gready 

The Era of Transitional Justice: The Aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and Beyond explores the broader issues raised by political transition and transitional justice through the prism of the TRC and transition in South Africa.

South Africa constitutes a powerful case study of the enduring structural legacies of a troubled past, and of both the potential and limitations of transitional justice and human rights as agents of transformation in the contemporary era. South Africa’s story has wider relevance because it helped to launch constitutional human rights and transitional justice as global discourses; as such, its own legacy is to some extent writ large in post-authoritarian and post-conflict contexts across the world.

Based on a decade of research, and in an analysis that is both comparative and interdisciplinary, Paul Gready maintains that transitional justice needs to do more to address structural violence - and in particular poverty, inequality and social and criminal violence - as these have emerged as stubborn legacies from an oppressive or war-torn past in many parts of the world. 


"Paul Gready has written a well-researched, thoughtful and unique volume. His assertion that those working on transitional justice and human rights must do more to address the structural poverty and violence which are the enduring legacies of the past - including through greater attention to realizing economic, social and cultural rights for all - is an important message for the 21st century. This book offers a wealth of insights for those working in a range of fields including, but going well beyond, transitional justice."
Mary Robinson, President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative; former President of Ireland

"This superb book provides an insightful, provocative and timely critique of the strengths and weaknesses of transitional justice mechanisms, through the prism of truth commissions. In recent years transitional justice mechanisms have spread somewhat promiscuously and have been asked to take on a rapidly expanding array of tasks. But too little attention has been paid to coherence, manageability, or the deeper assumptions underpinning the process. This book analyses those shortcomings critically but constructively and provides important guidelines for the future."
Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

"The Era of Transitional Justice is a brilliant inquiry into the sensitive domain of transitional justice given concreteness by a focus on post-apartheid South Africa's struggle for truth and reconciliation, but it is more than this. What really makes this book indispensable is its exceptionally clarifying conceptual framework for thought and action across the whole spectrum of human rights/justice concerns."
Richard Falk, Research Professor, Global Studies, UCSB

‌The No-Nonsense Guide to Human Rights (2006)

Olivia Ball and Paul Gready

With a foreword by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu


'I commend to you The No-Nonsense Guide to Human Rights as a call to question, to think, to act, and to contribute.'
The Most Reverend Desmond M. Tutu, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

'Accessible without becoming superficial, Ball and Gready have an engaging style and impressive command of this important subject. More than simply a practitioner's handbook, The No Nonsense Guide to Human Rights makes an intellectual contribution of its own to the field. This pocket-sized book is important reading for the novice and equally useful for the seasoned human rights practitioner.'
Mary Robinson, President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalisation Initiative, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), President of Ireland (1990-1997)

'An indispensible exploration of human rights in our time, not only for beginners but also I suspect for many activists who will be challenged by the complexity with which this guide addresses our current dilemmas.'
Ariel Dorfman, Chilean writer and human rights activist

'I am full of admiration for the richness and variety packed in to a relatively short text. I only wish that I'd had something like this to read when I was starting out! I'm recommending it to all my students.'
Dr Brian Phillips, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights Practice, Oxford Brookes University