The European Criminology Group on Atrocity Crimes and Transitional Justice

Why this group?

Europe as a region has witnessed unspeakable mass atrocity crimes and genocide, and Europeans have been involved as perpetrators in mass violence across the globe. However, Europe was also the site of the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, when for the first time perpetrators were brought to justice. Europe has played a decisive role in the proliferation of legal instruments, and procedures ever since then, including International Criminal Tribunals and the International Criminal Court. The world owes the term 'genocide' to Raphael Lemkin, a Polish migrant in the US, and the legal concept of ‘crimes against humanity’ to Hersch Lauterpacht, who like Lemkin migrated from Poland to the United Kingdom. .

 It is only recently that these crimes have become the object of systematic criminological research. Criminology is particularly well prepared to address the changing landscape of mass atrocity crimes and to study the strategies and mechanisms of transitional justice, given its multiple theoretical and conceptual frameworks and extensive methodological toolboxes. These include micro-level analyses of collective violence, the contextual analysis of state and organizational crime, as well as perspectives from victimology. Criminologists are well equipped to study the aetiology of such crimes, measure its magnitude, e.g. with victim surveys and evaluate the impact of criminal justice on perpetrators, victims and the wider public during post-conflict and transitional periods.

 These crimes are equally challenging for criminologists. If 'ordinary men' commit such crimes, our theories and tools do not fit. If mass atrocities are part of deep-rooted conflicts, the institutions and instruments of justice might hardly or not work at all. Is deterrence of such crimes a useful concept in studying international criminal justice instruments, and is it a sensible claim at all?  What can we make of rehabilitation of offenders in such a context of crime and conflict? Criminological engagement with these crimes will not only make a valuable contribution to the field, but also cross-fertilise our own theories and concepts of violence, state crime and victimisation, or of criminal justice more generally. Much can be gained for domestic criminal justice by scrutinizing international criminal justice, and vice versa. ,Iinternational criminal justice and transitional justice are  fields that bring together the different disciplines and engage them in dialogue - law and jurisprudence, forensics, psychology, sociology, political science and international relations, history and (forensic) archeology. The European Criminology Group on Atrocity Crimes and Criminal Justice promotes a decisively criminological perspective and as such a genuinely interdisciplinary one.

European criminology can draw on a wealth of historical and contemporary research on mass atrocities committed on its soil. European diversity therefore provides unique opportunities to contribute wide-ranging comparative perspectives to the global engagement with research on these crimes and transitional justice. European criminologists can rely on numerous in-depth case studies, and they can span the whole range of criminological inquiry, from situations, perpetrators and victims to criminal justice procedures and institutions in the field.  Members of the Group work on all aspects of atrocity crimes, on their causes and consequences, as well as regulations and reactions to atrocity crimes. Widely differing approaches to transitional justice offer unique insights as well as the possibility to contrast different practices of criminal justice in dealing with the crimes of the past.


The European Criminology Group on Atrocity Crimes and Transitional Justice provides a network for European criminologists who are engaged in the research on atrocity crimes and transitional justice whether in and on Europe, or globally. The group collaborates with other networks and research groups in the field like e.g. Supranational Criminology started by Professor Alette Smeulers and her colleagues (