The relationship between transitional justice and security system – or sector – reform (SSR) is understudied, yet both contribute to state-building, democratisation and peacebuilding in countries with a legacy of massive human rights abuse. The security system is fundamental in any democracy for protecting the citizens’ rights. Yet in postconflict environments it usually comprises members of the police, military, secret police, intelligence agencies, armed rebel groups and militia – the groups which are often the most responsible for serious and systemic human rights violations during conflict. Reforming the system to ensure security agents become protectors of the population and the rule of law is therefore of the utmost urgency, but the political and security context may pose serious challenges to reform.
This paper draws on research in four very different environments: Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Timor-Leste. Although effective SSR is highly context-specific, this paper argues that the EU could improve the substance of its SSR programming and implementation by drawing on lessons from these four case studies.