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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Arzoo Osanloo
LSJ 490
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Comparative Legal Institutions

Focused, comparative examination of legal institutions.

Class description

Reconciliation: The Politics of Forgiveness in a Global Age

Human rights laws emerged in the post-WWII context after appeals for a global order which would strive to maintain international peace and security. In order to do this, one of the major shifts in the world order was to permit the international community to intervene on violent albeit domestic conflicts which ‘shocked the conscience of man,’ and thus threatened international peace and security. This was a change in the legal order that previously required ‘cross-border aggression,’ as the test for intervention. . Drawing on the history of post-WWII conflict, this course will analyze the international mechanisms for reconciliation alongside of philosophical and moral considerations. In doing so, we will bring together occidental moral philosophies in which the secular human rights system is rooted with local knowledge and value systems also being employed in the aftermath of such conflict. In doing so, students will survey faith-based epistemologies underlying internal reconciliation processes.

Among the case studies students will explore will be the Nuremberg trials, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and International Criminal Court.

In addition, this course will consider the local remedies proposed in different communities, such as the Gacaca courts in Rwanda and the Loya Jurga in Afghanistan. Underlying each of these mechanisms is a series of religious, legal, and philosophical commitments that are specific to and important for the local communities, drawing from their own histories and traditions. In understanding the logic of such processes, our study will include readings of moral philosophy and religious texts expounding on the importance of forgiveness, mercy, and or reconciliation for the realization of justice among various communities throughout the world.

Local practices and multiple expressions of justice, then, might just be ‘universalizable’ through a common belief in the humanity of the ‘other,’ a value, according to Hannah Arendt, upon which forgiveness (and thus reconciliation) ultimately rests.

Student learning goals

This course has three aims. The first aim is to study the types of conflicts that engender global responses and why, a sort of politics of truth and reconciliation. Secondly we will explore some of the types of arbitrative mechanisms that have emerged and how they are tailor-made to respond to the exigencies of each conflict situation and its aftermath. Finally, as part of the study of the local logic of reconciliation, we will study, some of the underlying religious and philosophical traditions that lie at the basis of the remedies we consider, evaluating why something made sense in one community, but perhaps not in another. The focus will be on analyzing the context through which reconciliation is brought about.

General method of instruction


Recommended preparation

it is highly recommended that students have taken a foundational course in human rights

Class assignments and grading

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Arzoo Osanloo
Date: 02/02/2011