The Sharp End: Armed Opposition Groups, Transitional Justice and the Rechtsstaat,

Colm Campbell, Ita Connolly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


A key actor is missing in transitional justice discourse. While ex-combatant and DDR issues have generated rich literatures, transitionary armed movements groups as such are neglected. This article addresses part of this research gap, focusing on the agency of armed movements with respect to three key TJ themes: transition, law, and truth processes in the law-based ‘rechtsstaat’. Drawing on examples from South Africa, Namibia, Israel/Palestine and the Basque country, a framework for analyzing this agency is mapped by exploring the political opportunity structures presented by truth processes, and the processes’ implications for the movements’ mobilising structures and framing processes. This analytical framework is grounded using original Northern Ireland data drawn from interviews with former IRA activists, IRA public statements, and Sinn Féin election manifestos. The data suggests that transitionary armed opposition movements see transitional justice as a site for continuing their political projects. This presents political opportunities to inflict damage on their opponents, but also, given the victim-perpetrator character of these movements, it is potentially a site of attrition. The truths emerging from transitional processes may reflect the degrees of agency, entrepreneurship (including deliberate silences), and resource deployed in the process, by state and non-state actors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Transitional Justice
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 24 Jan 2012


  • transitional justice insurgents south africa northern ireland palestine truth commission social movement


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