Strategic Justice During Civil Conflict

Led by Cyanne Loyle
Sep 2012 - Sep 2014

Civil war remains a global challenge. Justice processes are often offered as solutions to prevent conflict reoccurrence; yet, little work has been undertaken to understand the prevalence of practices (trials, truth commissions, reparations, amnesties, purges, and exiles) while conflict is ongoing. Existing studies focus on implementation of processes in the post-conflict period, but pilot data shows that these same practices are often used during violence. Current literature provides little theoretical understanding as to when and why during-conflict justice (DCJ) is implemented and its likely effect on conflict. The long-term goal of our research is to establish the rationale for implementing justice processes in relation to civil wars - during violence, as part of transitions and after wars end - and to understand the effects of this implementation. The project will examine which justice processes, if any, a government implements during internal conflicts, in which contexts such processes are pursued, and the likely outcomes of these interventions. We develop three sets of hypotheses based on government interaction with: the rebel group, its constituency, and the international community, claiming that the government's decision and ability to use DCJ depends on these relationships. The underlying conjecture is that a government pursues DCJ policies most likely to increase its chances of winning the war or securing a favorable settlement. Thus, we also examine if governments reach these aims when implementing DCJ. Building on data collection techniques from the Post-Conflict Justice dataset we will collect a global dataset covering DCJ implemented during civil wars from 1946 to 2010. This project will improve our understanding of the presence of DCJ and expand the state of research on both justice processes and broader dynamics of conflict. The three over-arching research questions are as follows:

  • What accounts for government implementation of justice processes during conflict?
  • Which types of processes are most likely to be implemented during conflict?
  • What are the most likely outcomes of these interventions?

This project collaborates with the 'Power-Sharing, Democracy and Civil Conflict' project (Grant no 196850) funded by the Research Council of Norway (2010–2013) led by Scott Gates at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

The ‘Strategic Justice during Civil Conflict’ project is funded by the US National Science Foundation (Grant no 1227985) for two years (2012–2014) and includes the following researchers: Cyanne E. Loyle (project leader) and three research assistants at West Virginia University, and Helga Malmin Binningsbø and Scott Gates from PRIO.

Project webpage:

Research Groups


Conference Paper

Binningsbø, Helga Malmin & Cyanne Loyle (2014) Justice during armed conflict from 1949 through 2011: A new dataset, presented at International Studies Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, Canada, 26–29 March 2014.