Civil Society and Transitional Justice in the Balkans: Three Models of Interaction
The role of civil society actors is critical in a host of transitional justice processes. And yet, transitional justice is often approached and examined in a top-down manner that renders the agency of civil society invisible. This paper starts from the premise that the character of transitional justice depends to a large extent on the ways in which civil society actors use, adapt, develop, and contest justice norms and structures. And the other way round: transitional justice processes may have significant impact on civil society. The paper develops an analytical framework for examining different forms of engagement of civil society actors in transitional justice processes in the Balkans, which may be useful for further research on the region as well as comparative work. Three different models of civil society interaction with transitional justice are outlined as ‘ideal types’, focusing on their central logic and implications for the character of transitional justice, the kinds of actors involved, and some of the key challenges associated with each model: ‘participation’ in transitional justice mechanisms established by states and international actors; ‘contestation’ over questions of justice in the public domain; and ‘mobilisation’ of civil society itself outside formal justice processes. Drawing on civil society theory, the models are also related to different versions of the concept of civil society in contemporary usage.