Revisiting the Arab Spring: Justice in Times of Transition

Mr. Habib Nassar, a prominent human rights attorney and transitional justice advocate with 10 years of experience in the Middle East and in North Africa, visited New York Law School on February 28th, 2013 to discuss the political conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and the evolving trends of transitional justice resulting from these conflicts.

The discussion expanded from the region’s legacies of corruption, human rights and socioeconomic rights violations to its monarchical form of government and social class division. These factors were examined in light of the role they play in shaping the type of transitional justice measures that are implemented.

With the demise of the Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, respectively, and the continued unrest in Syria, transitional justice has quickly become the focus of discussion among governments and civil societies as a roadmap for developing responses and mechanisms to address the issues of human rights violations and corruption. 

Mr. Nassar distinguished the efforts undertaken by the government in Tunisia, where the transitional justice processes were constructive and included consultations with the population and the efforts in Morocco which included a gender dimension to cover and protect women, from the efforts in Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

Mr. Nassar believes that transitional justice is not a “prescription” or “pre-packaged meal”. He endorses an approach that integrates elements of transitional justice with other fields and that also, gives relevance and importance to the complexity of the region’s legacies as aforenoted. These legacies are multi-layered and cover various and long periods of time; therefore, if governments and the civil society do not account for their role in building trust in the society, transitional justice risks losing credibility.

The discussion rested on a topic that is likely to take the topic of transitional justice to scale: whether and when it is appropriate for the international community to take over the processes of transitional justice.

Mr. Nassar’s point of views and analysis of the conflicts in Tunisia, Syria and Egypt, were refreshing and insightful. The New York Law School students, professors from institutions throughout New York City, and professionals who attended added value to the discussion with questions and comments.

To watch Mr. Nassar’s lecture in full, please click here.


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