Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC San Diego

Transitional justice and democratic consolidation in Eastern Europe


The primary question in this dissertation concerns the relationship between transitional justice policies and democratic consolidation. It is often assumed that transitional justice will have a positive impact on consolidation, but this is rarely examined or empirically tested. The goals of this dissertation are twofold, to contribute to the empirical investigation of transitional justice effects and to refine our understanding of how these effects happen. Accordingly, among the aspects of transitional justice policies investigated here are initial policy choice and intensity, as well as variation in the policies' procedural characteristics. Using evidence from criminal prosecution and political screening policies in post-communist Germany and Poland, this dissertation first argues that a wide range of transitional justice policies is compatible with democratic consolidation. Second, in developing a framework for how to study the effects of transitional justice policies it assesses the roles of intensity versus procedural variables (including the criteria for evaluation and institutional capacity). Their effects are disaggregated into three categories: membership, educational, and symbolic. Evidence from Germany and Poland shows that variations in these three categories of effects were more the result of procedural factors than of the intensity of transitional justice. More specifically, high intensity of criminal trials and screening is necessary but not sufficient to produce extensive punishments and/or dismissals. Variations in intensity establish the range of potential exclusions, but the actual magnitude and distribution of membership effects is determined by the criteria used for evaluating subjects and the capacity of implementing institutions. Moreover, criteria and institutional capacity consistent with democratic rule of law norms are likely to reduce the magnitude of exclusions. Intensity is not strongly related to educational effects, in particular the release of new information about the past regime, which are shaped instead by procedural factors. Intensity is one of several possible influences on symbolic effects of transitional justice policies, but only in combination with procedural variables, particularly criteria for evaluation and institutional capacity. In short, transitional justice policies have multifaceted and indirect effects that, within broad limits set by intensity, are likely to be determined by variations in the process of implementation

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View