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Exposure to Violence and Attitudes Towards Transitional Justice

Hall, J., Kovras, I., Stefanovic, D. & Loizides, N. (2018). Exposure to Violence and Attitudes Towards Transitional Justice. Political Psychology, 39(2), pp. 345-363. doi: 10.1111/pops.12412


Transitional justice has emerged to address victims' needs as a means of restoring relations broken by violence. Yet we know little about victims' attitudes towards different transitional justice mechanisms. Why do some victims prioritize retributive justice while others favor other forms of dealing with the violent past? What determines victims' attitudes towards transitional justice policies? To address these questions, we offer a new theoretical framework that draws upon recent insights from the field of evolutionary psychology and links both war exposure and postwar environments to transitional justice preferences. We argue that both past experiences of wartime violence and present-day social interdependence with perpetrators impact transitional justice preferences, but in divergent ways (resulting in greater support for retributive vs. restorative justice measures, respectively). To test our framework, we rely upon a 2013 representative survey of 1,007 respondents focusing on general population attitudes towards transitional justice in Bosnia two decades after the implementation of the Dayton Accords. Specifically, we examine the impact of displacement, return to prewar homes, loss of property, loss of a loved one, physical injury, imprisonment, and torture on attitudes towards transitional justice. On the whole, our findings confirm our two main hypotheses: Exposure to direct violence and losses is associated with more support for retributive justice measures, while greater present-day interdependence with perpetrators is associated with more support for restorative justice measures. While acknowledging the legacy of wartime violence, we highlight the importance of the postwar context and institutional mechanisms that support victims in reconstructing their lives.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Hall, J., Kovras, I., Stefanovic, D. and Loizides, N. (2018), Exposure to Violence and Attitudes Towards Transitional Justice. Political Psychology, 39: 345-363, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Publisher Keywords: exposure to violence; transitional justice; displacement; Bosnia; retributive justice; restorative justice; victimhood
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
K Law > K Law (General)
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
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