PSY9601 – Beyond Transitional Justice, From the Individual to the Community

Course content

​The course focuses on psychological aspects of transitional justice in the area of population or societal responses, critiques of PTSD, the dangers of victimhood as a social identity, and the myth of reconciliation. The course will have a topical approach to these themes through focus on transitional justice mechanisms from the Balkans, Africa and the Americas.
Over the past twenty years, the global community has shown a renewed commitment to the pursuit of international criminal justice. A hallmark development in this regard is the establishment of the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC). A central asset of the court is victim and witness participation, based on an assumption that this approach will benefit those who have been affected by the crimes and their communities.
Court-based efforts to seek and achieve peace after conflict depend largely on perceptions of fairness—the fair treatment of victims and witnesses and their ability to seek justice in a court of law. Yet little is known about the experiences of victims who come before international courts. Why do they come and how do they interpret their experiences?
Since the mid-1970s, social psychologists and legal scholars have surveyed people around the world who have participated in judicial proceedings involving crimes committed in domestic jurisdictions to understand what it is about such processes that leads participants to consider them fair or unfair, and ultimately to accept or reject the outcome of such proceedings. Almost universally, these procedural justice studies have found that witnesses define a “fair process” as one that is based largely on three criteria described; benevolence, the degree to which they perceive that the court officials, from judges to social workers, care about them and their experiences; neutrality, the extent to which they have been able to talk about their experiences in a neutral and unbiased forum; and respect, the extent to which they have been treated in a professional and dignified manner.

Those involved in judicial processes are looking for signs that they can trust court officials. For this reason, showing the utmost respect to victims and witnesses at all phases of a judicial proceeding is key component for building trust in a court’s authority and legitimacy, and ultimately the reconciliatory and therapeutic potential, if that is attainable? This course will explore these elements by focusing on:

  • Transitional justice mechanisms; from truth commissions to courts

  • Testimonies and interrogations; how to work with victims witnesses 

  • Individual and Community impact; paths to reconciliation, or not?

Learning outcome

for more information regarding this course, please see course web page (external link).


Please fill in the electronic course application form at the course website The deadline for applications is October 30th  2015, number of participants is 24.
There is no participation fee, but the cost of transportation and accommodation, if needed, must be covered by participants. Five stipends to cover basic accommodation at neighboring Anker Hotel are available for PhD students who do not have funding for such course participation through their universities. Applicants will be notified about the outcome of their application within a week after the deadline.


Course Schedule

Wednesday December 2nd

1. Welcome and Introduction (Inger Skjelsbæk & Nora Sveaass)
2. Open Lecture: Extending the Boundaries of Transitional Justice
with Clinical Professor (Ret'd) Harvey Weinstein, Human Rights Center, University of California Berkeley, Chair: Inger Skjelsbæk
3. Lorna McGregor, Director University Human Rights Center University of Essex
Human rights research methods – refining approaches for research in transitional justice
4. Discussion of core themes from the day (with Harvey Weinstein and Lorna McGregor)

Thursday December 3rd

5. Nora Sveaass, Department of Psychology University of Oslo – Justice and reparation in Peru and Argentina.  A study of victims’ experience with transitional justice mechanisms in Latin America )
6. Discussion with Nora Sveaass and Lorna Mc Gregor
7. Elin Skaar, Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI) – Truth Commissions in societies in transition? With comments from Anne Margrete Sønneland, Diakomhjemmet University College
8. Discussion with Anne Margrete Sønneland and Elin Skaa

Friday December 4th

9. Inger Skjelsbæk, Department of Psychology, Universiity of Oslo  – Sexual violence crimes and criminal prosecution. Bosnian experiences
10. Harvey Weinstein Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley “Victim-Centered Approaches: Who Benefits? Perspectives from the Individual to the Community
11. Discussion with Harvey Weinstein and Inger Skjelsbæk
12. Paper presentations (all participants)
13. Concluding discussion (Nora Sveaass and Inger Skjelsbæk)


In order to obtain 5 ECTS credits for the course (PSY9601B), participants must get an overview of the readings, participate actively in the lectures and submit a paper of
3000–5000 words by March 1st 2016. An idea for the essay should be submitted by 1 February 2015 for acceptance by the coordinators.
10 ECTS credits (PSY9601) can be obtained by submitting a paper proposal (200-400 words) by February 1st 2016. A maximum of 6 papers will be accepted, based on criteria of quality and relevance. The papers should be developed into full research articles (6000-9000 words) by March 1st 2016.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Course Literature:

Indicative readings - tentative
Stover, E., & Weinstein, H. M. (Eds.). (2004). My neighbor, my enemy: Justice and community in the aftermath of mass atrocity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
McEvoy, K., & McGregor, L. (Eds.). (2008). Transitional justice from below: Grassroots activism and the struggle for change. Portland, OR: Hart Publishing.
Skaar, E., Malca, C. G., & Eide, T. (2015). After violence: Transitional justice, peace, and democracy. New York, NY: Routledge.
Skjelsbæk, I. (2015). The military perpetrator: A narrative analysis of sentencing judgments on sexual violence offenders at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(1). doi:
Sveaass, N. (2013). Gross human rights violations and reparation under international law: Approaching rehabilitation as a form of reparation. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 4. doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.17191

Facts about this course






Autumn 2015

Will be taught 2-4 December 2015


March 2016

Teaching language