This joint research project of UNU-ISP and Middlesex University (London, UK) focuses on the death penalty in transitional contexts: post-conflict situations, and in states attempting to move from authoritarian rule to democracy. Compared to more stable environments, in transitional context the decision whether to abolish, keep, or adopt the death penalty is not simply an issue of human rights, but also highly political, connected to fragile and complex transition processes. Countries in transition may encounter difficult dilemmas in balancing their stance on the death penalty with other pressing issues, such as maintaining peace and social order, promoting peacebuilding processes, instituting democratic government, or pursuing transitional justice. This project aims to elaborate such politics of the death penalty in countries in transitions by examining these difficult, sometimes intractable, issues through a range of case studies including Argentina, Bosnia, Cambodia, Iraq, North Africa and the ‘Arab Spring’, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and South Korea.
UNU-ISP co-organized a research workshop at Middlesex University in London on 12–13 September 2011 which brought together leading experts to present paper on these case studies and on conceptual and theoretical analysis. These contributions are being developed into draft chapter for an edited book, which will be published through Routledge in 2013.
The project targets not only academics but also policy makers, UN agencies and programmes and NGOs, who are working on human rights and the death penalty, as well as peacebuilding, democratization and transitional justice.