Transitional Justice | Rebel Governance | Repression | Methodology


Transitional Justice

My research in this area seeks to better understand the implementation and functioning of justice institutions both during and after conflict and a government’s role in asserting control through these processes.

Book Manuscript

“Escaping Justice: Impunity for state crimes in the age of accountability”

Now more than ever the international community is playing a role in pressing governments to hold their own to account. Movements in support of human rights have helped to spur global pressure for individual accountability for the violations of those rights, a ‘justice cascade’. Despite pressure to adhere to global norms of accountability, governments continue to benefit from impunity for their crimes and have an incentive to structure institutions to help them escape justice. How does this outcome persist? Escaping Justice is a study of the process through which accountability for state crimes is pursued or denied based on extensive fieldwork in Rwanda, Uganda, and Northern Ireland. Escaping Justice presents a theory of strategic adaptation in which governments circumvent the risks of accountability by adapting international norms. Research in each of the three country cases reveals unique strategies of adaptation: coercion, containment, and concession. I use evidence from these cases to trace the domestic political context driven each strategy and offer insight into the transitional justice structure most likely to emerge.

Work In Progress

  • “Justice During Armed Conflict: Addressing Grievance or Projecting State Strength”

Governments challenged by violent insurgent groups use a variety of tactics during their fight. Commonly used are judicial and quasi-judicial processes, adopted to address wrongdoings committed during the war. These processes include trials, truth commissions, reparations, amnesties, purges, and exiles. In 58% of the 204 internal armed conflicts since WWII the government initiated at least one type of during-conflict justice (DCJ) process. What accounts for the prevalence of these processes during-conflict and what is their intended objective? In this paper, I argue that governments use DCJ in an attempt to undermine support for rebel organizations through encouraging defections among rebels and rebel supporters. I test this argument using new data collected on DCJ processes implemented between 1946 and 2011.

  • “Prosecution, Punishment, or Persecution? Gacaca, Justice, and the Elimination of Rwandan Political Challengers” with Christian Davenport and Priyamvada Trivedi.

In 2001, the government of Rwanda began a pilot to test the efficacy of a community justice program, Gacaca, which would serve as the primary mechanism for accountability and reconciliation for rank-and-file participants of the genocide in 1994. Using data on Gacaca prosecutions and mass political violence, we test competing arguments regarding the use and/or mis-use of Gacaca. From our analysis, we find that rather than advancing accountability through prosecutions as the international community had hoped by targeting areas that engaged in the largest amount of genocide violence, Gacaca has generally served as a tool of state repression targeting areas of threat to the government and eliminating potential political rivals by following demographic concentrations of young men.

  • “Amnesty as a Weapon of War: Government Strength and Justice Processes During Conflict” with Scott Gates and Helga Malmin Binningsbø.

Selected Publications

  • “Justice Now or Later: How Measures Taken to Addres Wrongdoings during Armed Conflict Affect Postconflict Justice" with Helga Helga Malmin Binningsbø and Bård Drange. International Journal of Transitional Justice
  • “Justice during armed conflict from 1949 through 2011: A new dataset” with Helga Malmin Binningsbø. Journal of Conflict Resolution 62(2): 2018.
  • “Transitional Justice and Political Order in Rwanda.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 41(4): 2018.
  • “Post-Conflict Justice and Conflict Recurrence: Addressing Motivations and Opportunities for Sustainable Peace” with Benjamin Appel. International Studies Quarterly 61(3): 2017.
  • “Transitional InJustice: Subverting Justice in Transition and Post-Conflict Societies” with Christian Davenport. Journal of Human Rights 15(1): 2016.
  • “Armed Conflict and Post-Conflict Justice, 1946-2006: A Dataset” with Helga Malmin Binningsbø, Jon Elster and Scott Gates. Journal of Peace Research 49(5) September 2012.
  • “The Economic Benefits of Justice: Post-Conflict Justice Foreign Direct Investment” with Benjamin Appel. Journal of Peace Research 49(5) September 2012.


Rebel Governance

My research in this area seeks to better understand governance and legitimacy by rebel groups. I am particularly intersted in judicial and quaisi-jusdicial process and their longterm impacts.

Work in Progress

  • "Laws And Order: The Impact of Rebel Governance on Post-Conflict Rule of Law"

What are the long-term impacts of rebel judicial systems on post-conflict rule of law? The study of rebel governance has focused primarily on the rationale for the use of rebel institutions and the impact of those choices on the conflict itself. Rebel courts and judicial systems can be pervasive institutions in the lives of the rebels who operate them and the citizens living under their jurisdiction. As such, these processes can have long term implications for the independence and functioning of the state judicial system once conflict has ended. Using new data on rebel judiciaries across armed conflicts from 1946 through 2017, this paper examines variation in the structure, transparency, and civilian engagement of rebel courts in order to better understand the ways in which these courts impact the long-term functioning of the post-conflict judiciary. A study of rebel courts expands our knowledge of rebel governance and further informs plans for judicial reform following armed conflict.

Selected Publications


State Repression and Human Rights

My research focuses on patterns of state repression in Northern Ireland and around the world, as well as the perpetrators of those violations.

Work In Progress

  • “Without a Trace: Enforced Disappearance as a Strategy During Armed Conflict”

In this study, I investigate the tactic of enforced disappearance during armed conflict using subnational data on over 1,800 disappearances during the civil war in Nepal between the government and the Maoists. I demonstrate that the use of this tactic varies according to the state reach in a given area. In particular, I find that enforced disappearances are more likely in areas of conflict where the state has little formal presence or ability to gather intelligence.

Selected Publications

  • “Some Left to Tell the Tale: Finding Perpetrators, Understanding Violence & Missing Rwandan Murders in the Middle” with Christian Davenport. Journal of Peace Research 57(4) 2020.
  • “The Northern Ireland Research Initiative: Data on the Troubles from 1968-1998” with Christopher Sullivan and Christian Davenport. Conflict Management and Peace Science 31(1) February 2014.
  • “The Coercive Weight of the Past: Temporal Dependence in the Conflict-Repression Nexus” with Christopher Sullivan and Christian Davenport. International Interactions 38(4): August 2012.
  • “Transforming Men Into Killers: Attitudes leading to hands-on violence during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide” with Dr. Reva Adler, Dr. J. Globerman and Dr. E. Larson. Global Public Health 3(3) July 2008: 291-307.
  • “A Calamity in the Neighborhood: Women’s Participation in the Rwanda Genocide” with Reva Adler and J. Globerman. Genocide Studies and Prevention 2(3) Winter 2008: 209-234.


Research Methodology

My field research has been challenging and at times dangerous. These experiences have led me to reflect on the obstacles to research in restrictive regimes.

Selected Publications