Skip to content

Juan Camilo Rivera-Rugeles
S.J.D. Candidate

jrivera at


Transitional justice: from human rights to bureaucracy

My dissertation will study the transformation of the field known as transitional justice (TJ). This concept refers to a project that essentially started out of efforts to democratize South American countries post-dictatorship and that consolidated with the South African post-apartheid settlement, and it has become a major institutional presence internationally and in many national contexts.

By focusing on South Africa, Colombia, and Mexico, my dissertation will show how TJ’s focal point has shifted from reconciliation and human rights to good governance and rule of law, with an ever-evolving policy agenda and a shift from national self-invention to international management by experts. As I move from South Africa to Colombia to Mexico, I will also trace the evolution of the United Nations’ and NGOs’ contributions, which follow a similar shift from human rights protection, to anti-impunity (criminalization of combatants and/or politicians), and to institution building including liberal market reforms. The story is of a shift from atrocity and authoritarianism, to be remedied by human rights and reconciliation, to government and market failure, to be remedied by criminalization, institution building and rule of law.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Critical Theory and Critique of Rights with Professor Janet Halley, Harvard Law School, Principal Faculty Supervisor
  • Transitional Justice with Professor Martha Minow, Harvard Law School
  • The Role of International Organizations in Post-Conflict Settings with Professor Naz Modirzadeh, Harvard Law School
  • Distributive Analysis of Legal Rights Regimes with Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School

Additional Research Interests

  • Legal Theory
  • Comparative Law
  • Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law
  • Constitutional Law


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2020 – Present
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. 2020 (requirements fulfilled, degree waived)
  • Universidad de los Andes-Colombia, cum laude, LL.M., 2012
  • Universidad del Rosario-Colombia, Abogado (J.D. equivalent), 2010

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Universidad de los Andes-Law School (Bogotá-Colombia), 2017 to 2019, Lecturer of the following courses: Legal Theory and Comparative Law
  • Universidad del Rosario-Law School (Bogotá-Colombia), 2011 to 2017, Lecturer of Legal Theory

Representative Publications

  • “¿Dónde trazar la línea entre la justicia y la paz? El alcance de la justicia penal a la luz del Marco Jurídico para la Paz” [Where to draw the line between justice and peace? The scope of the criminal justice in the light of the Legal Framework for peace], in Helena Alviar García and Isabel Cristina Jaramillo (coords.), Perspectivas jurídicas para la paz. Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, 2016.
  • “Las sanciones penales frente a expresiones sobre temas de relevancia pública: ¿limitación o violación a la libertad de expresión?” [Criminal sanctions against expressions on issues of public importance: limitation or violation of freedom of expression], American University International Law Journal, vol. 26 no. 1, 2010.
  • “¿Punto final al limbo legal de las actividades de inteligencia en Colombia?” [End to the legal limbo of intelligence activities in Colombia?], Revista Estudios Socio-Jurídicos, 2013, 15, (1), pp. 139-164.
  • Control judicial y modulación de fallos de tutela [Judicial review of modulated judgments of acciones de tutela]. Bogotá: Editorial Universidad del Rosario, 2012.

Additional Information

  • Languages: English, Spanish.

Last Updated: August 3, 2020