Transitional justice is the study of those mechanisms employed by communities, states and the international community to deal with a legacy of systematic human rights abuses and authoritarianism in order to promote social reconstruction. There is a well developed transitional justice literature on how states can deal with past violations of civil and political rights, which discusses the value of truth commissions, and international and domestic prosecutions. The transitional justice literature on how to deal with past violations of property rights, however, is significantly less developed. The goal of this essay is to begin an important conversation about how transitional states can deal with multiple layers of past land dispossession in order to promote social reconstruction. I discuss the strengths and weakness of a state’s three main options: Maintaining the present property status quo, fully or partially returning to a prior status quo, or creating a new property status quo altogether. I argue that a state should decide which option it will choose in the context of a well-informed, inclusive public dialogue rather than through a less time consuming process involving only elites.
Property and Transitional Justice, 58 UCLA L. Rev. Disc 65 (2010).