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Stones Left Unturned

Law and Transitional Justice in Burundi

Book | 1st edition 2010 | World | Stef Vandeginste

Awarded with the 2009 Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award

Stones Left Unturned looks at the post-colonial history of Burundi through transitional justice lenses. It describes how repeated cycles of politico-ethnic violence as well as the so-called “remedial” action undertaken in their aftermath have been inspired by the desire to maintain or obtain political power. Throughout Burundi’s negotiated transition from conflict to peace, dealing with the past has been a constant matter of attention. The book zooms in on the gap between the rhetorical commitment by domestic and international actors to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and a special tribunal and the little achievements made so far. The historical account of transitional justice in Burundi is indicative of a fundamental evolution in the conception of law and how it relates to the exercise of political authority. It reveals a growing awareness that neither the process nor the outcome of transitional justice should solely be left to the discretion of the incumbent regime, but that international and constitutional norms impose substantive and procedural barriers.

Against the background of Burundi’s obligations under international law, this volume proposes – and at the same time also critically evaluates – the use of constitutional adjudication as a way of incorporating the transitional justice process in a wider effort of promoting the rule of law in Burundi.

For his doctoral dissertation, on which this book is based, Stef Vandeginste received the 2009 Max van der Stoel Human Rights Award (awarded by the Netherlands School of Human Rights Research). The jury “found this book impressive. It borrows richly from a range of theoretical traditions and combines this with painstaking documentary and fieldwork. The relevance of this book goes well beyond Burundi and provides lessons for research in different disciplines in many so-called transitional contexts” (from the jury report).

About the author:
Stef Vandeginste is a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) at the Faculty of Law of the University of Antwerp (Belgium). He is a research associate of the Centre for the Study of the Great Lakes Region of Africa (Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Antwerp) and co-editor of the yearbook L’Afrique des Grands Lacs.

About the book:
“An absolutely fascinating piece of work – what I believe to be a true milestone in legal scholarship of transitional justice, as well as in our understanding of Burundi”
Peter Uvin, Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Stones Left Unturned offers an extensive and in-depth academic analysis on the transitional justice process in Burundi - a subject unfortunately little explored. Not only does it adopt a thorough review of the historical context, thus casting a multidisciplinary light on the legal situation, but it explores an extremely interesting approach of domestic implementation of transitional justice through constitutional adjudication. While interesting academically, this comprehensive study has also proven extremely useful in TRIAL’s fieldwork in Burundi.”
Jean-René Oettli in 2011 TRIAL (24) 20

“This is a rare work of scholarship that achieves a genuine integration between legal and political analysis. [the] the writing is fluid, clear, and solidly footnoted. The style is argumentative and accessible to the non-specialist reader. [The book] makes a distinctive contribution to a new generation of transitional justice research, which is empirical and problem-driven, having evolved from its early roots in ethical or legal analyses, but which still stops short of proposing or evaluating policy solutions. In exemplary fashion, Vandeginste assesses his proposed solution critically, drawing organically on his initial analysis of the problem. […] The richly detailed exploration of Burundi’s transitional justice law and policy in the aftermath of each cycle of political violence, and the use of Constitutional Court case law as source material, also make this study an outstanding original contribution to the scholarship on law and politics in Burundi.”
Anuradha Chakravarty in 2012 African Affairs 507

“… a remarkably detailed work that will serve as a standard reference-work in the legal field for the next few decades.”
Peter Ventevogel, in 2012 Intervention 282

Technical info
More Information
Type of product Book
Format Hardback
EAN / ISSN 9789400001152 / 9781839700767
Series name Series on Transitional Justice
Weight 930 g
Status Available
Number of pages xxi + 452 p.
Access to exercice No
Publisher Intersentia
Language English
Publication Date Oct 8, 2010
Available on Jurisquare No
Available on Strada Belgique No
Available on Strada Europe No
Available on Strada Luxembourg No


  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Burundi’s Legacy of Large-Scale Human Rights Abuses
  • Chapter 2. Transitional Justice Law and Practice in the Aftermath of each Cycle of Large-Scale Human Rights Abuses
  • Chapter 3. Transitional Justice Law and Practice in Response to the Full Legacy of Large-Scale Human Rights Abuses, During and Beyond the Burundian Peace Process
  • Chapter 4. Sources and Determinants of Burundi’s Transitional Justice Law and Practice
  • Chapter 5. Burundi’s Obligations under International Law
  • Chapter 6. Applying International Law and Reducing Political Expediency Through Constitutional Adjudication
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography