Press Releases

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Justice as Prevention: Vetting Public Employees in Transitional Societies

New Book Sheds Light on Important Transitional Justice Measure

Vetting—the process by which abusive or corrupt employees are excluded from public office — is often practiced in post-conflict societies, yet remains one of the least studied aspects of transitional justice. In Justice as Prevention: Vetting Public Employees in Transitional Societies, a copublication of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), editors Alexander Mayer-Rieckh and Pablo de Greiff have assembled a collection of essays systematically exploring vetting practices in a variety of countries and contexts.

Justice as Prevention is a triple boon to the field of good governance,” said Christopher Stone, Guggenheim Professor of the Practice of Criminal Justice at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. “First, it establishes the importance of vetting government employees as an integral part of transitional justice, on a par with criminal prosecutions and truth telling. Second, it gives us a nuanced look at the complexity of the issues, which make vetting in practice so much more diffi cult than in policy. Finally, the volume’s appendix provides an invaluable, practical set of guidelines for those who take up this crucial work. Rarely does a single volume speak with such moral, historical, and practical authority all at once.”

Justice as Prevention presents case studies of vetting practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, the former German Democratic Republic, Greece, Hungary, and Poland, in each case employing questions meant to elicit a comparative basis for analysis, such as: • What was the design and scope of the vetting process? • How was vetting justified in this context? • How did vetting relate to other measures of institutional reform or other transitional justice measures? Two additional cases—Argentina and South Africa—explore contexts where politics blocked formal vetting as a potential avenue for the pursuit of justice.

Several chapters also focus on cross-cutting themes: gathering and managing information in vetting processes; due process and vetting; the relationship between vetting and other transitional reforms; and the relationship between vetting and other measures of transitional justice. Th e contributors to Justice as Prevention represent a wide spectrum of fields and include international human rights lawyers, experts on police and judicial reform, and scholars of transitional justice and reconciliation. This book is the second in the “Advancing Transitional Justice Series” co-published by the SSRC and the ICTJ. The first, What Happened to the Women? Gender and Reparations for Human Rights Violations (December 2006), edited by Ruth Rubio-Marín, argued for the need to introduce a gendered dimension into reparations programs in order to improve their response to female victims and their families.

About the Editors

Alexander Mayer-Rieckh manages the ICTJ’s security system reform program. He was chief of the Human Rights Office of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has worked for the UN in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Timor Leste, and has published on post-conflict institutional reform and peacebuilding. Pablo de Greiff is director of research at the ICTJ. Formerly associate professor of philosophy at SUNY Buff alo and Laurance S. Rockefeller Fellow at the Center for Human Values, Princeton University, he is the editor of seven books, most recently Th e Handbook of Reparations (Oxford University Press, 2006).

About the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)

The Social Science Research Council leads innovation, builds interdisciplinary and international networks, and focuses research on important public issues. Independent and not-for-profi t, the SSRC is guided by the belief that justice, prosperity, and democracy all require better understanding of complex social, cultural, economic, and political processes. The SSRC works with practitioners, policymakers, and academic researchers in all the social sciences, related professions, and the humanities and natural sciences. Th e SSRC brings necessary knowledge to public action. A new publications initiative, represented here in this co-publication with the ICTJ, complements and enhances the SSRC’s mission to disseminate necessary knowledge in innovative ways. For more information, please go to

About the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ)

Founded in 2001, the ICTJ assists countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse. The Center works in societies emerging from repressive rule or armed confl ict, as well as in established democracies where historical injustices or systemic abuse remain unresolved. The ICTJ’s unique approach consists of assisting in the development of integrated, comprehensive, and localized approaches to transitional justice comprising five key elements: prosecuting perpetrators, documenting and acknowledging violations through nonjudicial means such as truth commissions, reforming abusive institutions, providing reparations to victims, and facilitating reconciliation processes. For more information, please go to


Edited by Alexander Mayer-Rieckh and Pablo de Greiff

Paper | 2007 | $35.00 | ISBN: 9780979077210 | 6 x 9 | 566 pages

To be published May 15, 2007 as part of the Advancing Transitional Justice Series, a co-publication of the Social Science Research Council and the International Center for Transitional Justice

Contact: Mary-Lea Cox Phone: (212) 377-2700 Ext. 515

Please e-mail requests for review copies, and be sure to include the address of the person to whom the book should be sent.