Civil Society as a Transitional Justice Litigation Actor in Africa

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This article examines the input into the transitional justice discourse by civil society as a litigation actor in postcolonial Africa. It does not analyse all civil society litigation in transitional contexts in Africa, but rather uses some examples to point to different kinds of contributions. From the examples provided, one can affirm that civil society organisations (CSOs) are significant transitional justice litigation actors. This relates to civil and criminal litigation. With regard to criminal litigation, CSOs participate in formal processes in several ways, including pointing out due process flaws and turning over to the prosecution evidence of violations that they would have gathered during the conflict. Also, in the context of impunity and inadequate government policies, some CSOs have filled the accountability gap by resorting to civil suits and regional, exported and international litigation. These examples may offer useful insights into contexts where transitional justice initiatives are undertaken where there is no transition. In addition, the experiences may question whether compensation to victims of state-orchestrated violations of human rights which is achieved through non-governmental organisations’ initiatives constitutes transitional justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-56
Number of pages25
JournalAfrican Journal on Conflict Resolution
Issue number2
Early online date12 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 12 Dec 2022


  • transitional justice
  • civil society
  • Africa
  • Litigation
  • Accountability
  • Non-governmental organizations


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