Chairs: Nandor Knust, Barbora Hola, Susanne Karstedt, Alette Smeulers and Jon Shute

Europe as a region has been the site of 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 Trial, where for the first time perpetrators were brought to justice, and it has been seminal 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.

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 mushrooming 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, and 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 transitional post-conflict period.

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? 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.

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. Widely differing approaches to transitional justice offer unique insights as well as the possibility to contrast different practices.

The European Criminology Group on Atrocity Crimes and Transitional Justice will bring together criminologists who are engaged in the research on atrocity crimes and transitional justice in and on Europe. We hope to enhance the contribution of criminology and criminologists in this field, to stimulate research in and on Europe and to promote exchange between European and international researchers. The group will collaborate with other networks and research groups in the field. The Supranational Criminology Network is represented in the Group by its founder, Professor Alette Smeulers, Tilburg University, Netherlands. Renowned criminologists John Hagan and Joachim Savelsberg will join us as a Honorary Member.

Our specific interests and concerns include:

  • To organise thematic sessions at the annual ESC meetings as well as at other international meetings
  • To establish networks between established and young researchers, in particular doctoral students
  • To enhance interdisciplinary and international exchange through dedicated workshops and conferences
  • To develop collaborations with international criminal justice institutions, international bodies and NGOs those are active in the prevention of mass atrocities, in the provision of transitional justice, and in peace keeping

Steering  Group of the ECACTJ: 

Dr Barbola Hola,  Free University Amsterdam, Netherlands
Professor Susanne Karstedt, Griffith University, Australia
Dr. Nandor Knust, Max-Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, Germany
Professor Alette Smeulers, Tilburg Univrsity, Netherlands
Dr. Jon Shute, University of Manchester, United Kingdom


Nandor Knust, Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, Germany, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.