Term

About the Project

Welcome to the virtual home of ‘Bosnian Bones, Spanish Ghosts: Transitional Justice and the Legal Shaping of Memory after Two Modern Conflicts.’ This project, funded through the European Research Council for a period of four years, has comprised academic research, policy-oriented objectives and civic activism. It ultimately gave rise to a second ERC-funded initiative, the TJMapping project, which brought the Bosnian side of our research agenda into dialogue with key international, regional, national and grass-roots stakeholders (please see the link to the left).

The Bosnian-Spanish comparison that has oriented our research seems a bit unanticipated at first glance. However, the project design sought to bring two very apposite examples of ‘transition’ in the aftermath of wartime atrocity (both stemming from European contexts) into a single analytical frame. Bosnia and Herzegovina was the laboratory of a new modus operandi for peace-building and social reconciliation in the wake of conflicts marked by gross breaches of humanitarian law. This new discourse and set of practices, ‘transitional justice’, was understood to be victim-centric, internationally-driven, and under-written by a limitless appetite for accountability and transparency. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, it has resulted in an ‘enduring transition’ that seems to have left the state in a political, juridical and social limbo – a temporal stagnation marked by ongoing breaches of human rights and a palpable sense of human insecurity.

In Spain, ‘transition’ proved a seamless and overnight event after the death of Franco. But it was predicated on a ‘pacto de olvido’ – a pact of forgetting – where accountability and transparency were not countenanced and international involvement was almost entirely absent. The legacies of the Spanish transition are also becoming increasingly evident, as old wounds are being re-opened and the impact of wilful forgetting have come to haunt the country in unexpected ways.
At present, both countries are exhuming, identifying and re-burying their dead. They are finding different paths to confronting their pasts, and they serve as an intriguing index of the possibilities and limitations of the ‘transitional justice’ model more generally.

From the extensive, detailed and ethnographic research undertaken under the aegis of this project, our team will produce a ‘Post-Conflict Action Framework’ that will endeavour to mobilise our research in the service of a methodology that would create context-specific interventions in the aftermath of genocide and crimes against humanity. It is clear that the one-size-fits-all model of ‘transitional justice’ is ill-equipped to deal with the specificities of the historical/racial/ethnic/religious/legal/cultural sensibilities that frame post-conflict interventions.

By examining two very disparate examples of ‘transition’ (one pre TJ and the other, marking the emergence of a TJ perspective), we hope to explore the costs and benefits, the pros and cons, of distinct approaches to the ‘transitional justice’ experiment.