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João Costa


João holds an MPhil in Criminological Research from the University of Cambridge (distinction), an LLM from the University of Coimbra with a focus on criminal law (top of the class), and a BA in Law from the University of Coimbra (top of the class). He has lectured at the Faculty of Law of Lisbon's Universidade Católica.

João is the Chair of the Portuguese National Preventive Mechanism against torture and other forms of ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. He also has experience in peacebuilding, conflict and security, and development. He has consulted in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire with the African Development Bank, in Ethiopia with the Dutch Relief Alliance, in Brazil with Anglo American, and with Interpeace and the government of Norway. João has also worked in Colombia as delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, within the UN system, at its Office of Legal Affairs and at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and helped to strengthen local justice sector practices in Uganda through the African Prisons Project.


Research Interests

Under the supervision of Professor Alison Liebling, João is developing a social justice exercise as a peacebuilding tool that aims to create pockets of peace in communities surrounded by armed violence, changing the behaviour of its members. It does so by translating Rawls’ veil of ignorance into an innovative game that inspires context-specific interventions in local communities. This adaptation builds on various areas of knowledge, including political and moral philosophy, peacebuilding, criminology, sociology, psychology, and behavioural economics. 

The exercise is expected to have a transformative effect on individuals, changing perceptions of the other by appealing to participants’ intuition and creativity. The social interactions it proposes resemble what Durkheim called moments of ‘collective effervescence’, emotionally charged events that foster intellectual and moral feelings of communion.  Ultimately, the project seeks to replicate the process in multiple communities in order to influence overall conflict dynamics and promote peace at the national level.


Key Publications

- Liebling, A. and Costa, J. (in press) Being human as a method and research finding in social science, in Coffman, D. (eds), Festschrift for Jonathan Steinberg, London: Palgrave Macmilan

- Costa, J. (2016) A matter of degree: a justice framework for penal legitimacy, Punishment & Society 18(4), pp. 389-399.

- Costa, J. (2015) A dupla incriminação no mandato de detenção europeu, in Caeiro, P. (eds), Temas de Extradição e Entrega, Coimbra: Almedina, pp. 81-114

- Costa, J. (2014) Da superação do regime actual do conhecimento superveniente do concurso, Coimbra: Almedina, 141pp

- Costa, J. (2014) A pluralidade de infracções e a mediação penal em Portugal, Revista Portuguesa de Ciência Criminal 23(4), pp. 569-609