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Re-thinking Transitional Justice: The Prosecution of Political Leaders in the Arab Region. A comparative case study of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.

ABOUELDAHAB, NOHA (2015) Re-thinking Transitional Justice: The Prosecution of Political Leaders in the Arab Region. A comparative case study of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The dramatic uprisings that ousted the long-standing leaders of several countries in the Arab region have set in motion an unprecedented period of social, political and legal transformation. The Arab Spring uprisings saw criminal prosecutions in the Arab region take centre stage in the pursuit of transitional justice. Through a comparative case study of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, this thesis presents a critique of mainstream transitional justice theory. This theory is built on the underlying assumption that transitions constitute a shift from non-liberal to liberal democratic regimes, where measures – often legal – are taken to address atrocities committed during the prior regime. By examining the factors that triggered, drove and shaped decisions regarding the prosecution of political leaders in the four case studies, this thesis will enhance our understanding of how transitional justice is pursued in varied contexts. The findings of this research therefore build on the growing literature that claims that transitional justice is an under-theorised field and needs to be developed to take into account non-liberal and complex transitions.

I argue that transitional justice in the Arab region presents the strongest challenge yet to the transitional justice paradigm, which presumes a shift from violent, non-liberal rule to peaceful, liberal-democratic rule. There are four parts to this argument. First, the non-paradigmatic nature of the Arab region transitions, whereby a renewed form of repressive, non-liberal rule has largely taken shape, warrants a re-thinking of transitional justice and its pursuit in various contexts. Second, the Arab region cases demonstrate that both domestic and international actors pursue competing accountability agendas, thereby weakening claims of a global accountability norm. Third, the emphasis these cases place on accountability for corruption and socio-economic crimes as opposed to civil and political rights violations underline the need to develop transitional justice theory. The limited content and extent of the investigations and prosecutions in the four case studies are driven by the controlled nature of the transitions and point to a practice of scapegoating certain high-level officials and a certain set of crimes to show that there has been a break with the former regime. Finally, a re-thinking of transitional justice needs to take into account the absence of pre-existing democratic structures and what this means for criminal accountability prospects in non-paradigmatic transitional contexts.  

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Transitional justice, Arab Spring, international criminal law, criminal justice, individual criminal accountability, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Law, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Dec 2015 08:15

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