After Oppression: Transitional Justice in Latin America and Eastern Europe

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  • Edited by Vesselin Popovski and Mónica Serrano

    1200 Popovski – After Oppression FINAL front cover
    ISBN-13: 978-92-808-1200-8
    United Nations University Press
    November 2012

    The decline of authoritarianism in Latin America and Eastern Europe marked the end of a dark chapter in the history of these societies. In both regions, transition to democracy was accompanied by distinct efforts to come to terms with the traumatic experiences of the past and to demand accountability from the oppressors. The impact of these efforts rippled far beyond national boundaries, expanding the frontiers of international justice, and yielding indelible lessons and inspiration.

    As these societies crossed the uncharted waters of transition and liberalization, one difficult question remained: How to reconcile the need for democratic stability in the present and future with the imperative of truth and justice for the past? This was an unprecedented test: societies made their way forward often through trial and error; steps ahead were followed by steps back.

    After Oppression aims to enquire into the effectiveness of various accountability mechanisms. Drawing comparisons from cases studies in Latin America and Eastern Europe, the book demonstrates that while there are many different paths to truth and justice, all depend on continued efforts in order to reach them. In many cases these efforts also create favourable conditions for the development of a resilient human rights culture. The experiences across regions show that democratic consolidation and accountability for past human rights violations are closely related, if independent, processes. This accessible book makes an important contribution towards better understanding those processes and the relationship between them.

    About the Editors

    Vesselin Popovski is Senior Academic Officer and Head of Section for Peace and Security studies in the Institute for Sustainability and Peace at the United Nations University, Tokyo.
    Mónica Serrano Serrano is Professor of International Relations at the Colegio de México and a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford, UK.

    Table of Contents


    Transitional justice across continents, Vesselin Popovski and Mónica Serrano
    Models of accountability and the effectiveness of transitional justice , Kathryn Sikkink

    Part I: Latin America .
    Accountability, the rule of law and transitional justice in Latin America, Pilar Domingo
    “The past is never dead”: Accountability and justice for past human rights violations in Argentina, Catalina Smulovitz
    The paradox of accountability in Brazil, James L. Cavallaro and Fernando Delgado
    The unlikely outcome: Transitional justice in Chile, 1990 – 2008, Claudio Fuentes
    Transitional justice without a compass: Paramilitary demobilization in Colombia, Elvira María Restrepo
    El Salvador: The peace process and transitional justice, Ricardo Córdova Macías and Nayelly Loya Marín
    Transitional justice in Guatemala, Carmen Rosa de León Escribano and María Patricia González Chávez
    Transitional justice and democratic consolidation: The Peruvian experience, Carlos Basombrío Iglesias

    Part II: Eastern Europe
    On the effectiveness of judicial accountability mechanisms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ernesto Kiza
    Justice and accountability mechanisms in Bulgaria in the transition period (1989–2008), Hristo Hristov and Alexander Kashumov
    After the fall of the Berlin Wall: Transitional justice in Germany, Gerhard Werle and Moritz Vormbaum
    Lustration as a trust-building mechanism? Transitional justice in Poland, Monika Nalepa
    Neither forgiving nor punishing? Evaluating transitional justice in Romania, Lavinia Stan
    From Velvet Revolution to velvet justice: The case of Slovakia, Nadya Nedelsky
    Accountability for Communist crimes and restitution for victims in Slovenia, Mitja Steinbacher, Matjaž Steinbacher and Matej Steinbacher

    Transitional justice: Reframing the debate, Alexandra Barahona de Brito and Laurence Whitehead
    Transitional justice and democratic consolidation, Mónica Serrano
    The complexity and effectiveness of transitional justice in Latin America and Eastern Europe, Vesselin Popovski

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  • “Democratic consolidation is not merely about institutions and constitutions. It is also about memory, culture and fairness. The latter factors are shaped by complex histories and unique geo-political contexts and thus there are no legal or political blue-prints for handling transitional justice. The contribution of this comprehensive collection of essays is to aid our understanding of the linkage between democratic consolidation and transitional justice in two key regions: Eastern Europe and Latin America. The book is set to become an important source of information and ideas for all those interested in what happens after the fall of authoritarian regimes.”

    Jan Zielonka, Professor of European Politics, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford

    “Latin America and Eastern Europe emerged from dictatorship more or less contemporaneously in the 1980s and 90s. The contrast in the ways they reckoned with their respective legacies of human rights violations has been a theme of the emerging field of “transitional justice” ever since. With the benefit of a quarter century of experience, After Oppression presents the most comprehensive comparative study of those similarities and differences. Editors Monica Serrano and Vesselin Popovski have assembled a most impressive group of scholars and practitioners to conduct this essential study. They combine intellectual rigor with “you-are-there” proximity to the challenges, frustrations and signal successes of the struggle for justice in our time.”

    Juan E Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Visiting Professor, Washington College of Law

    “This book has several strengths. The individual chapters provide a solid overview of transitional justice efforts in a variety of jurisdictions. They are detailed, informative and analytic, and convey a tremendous array of insights.”

    Mark A Drumbl, Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and Director, Transnational Law Institute, Washington and Lee University

    “Transitional justice has become one of the most important topics studied in comparative politics. There have been many excellent studies, written from various theoretical perspectives, yet there has been no single volume that would summarize the existing knowledge, critically dissect the state-of-the-art theorizing and present up-to-date analysis of important cases (from Latin America and Eastern Europe). This is a volume that splendidly accomplishes all three tasks. A stellar cast of authors provides – finally – a tool awaited by all people interested in transitional justice: a smart, comprehensive and authoritative guide to the field.”

    Jan Kubik, Chair, Department of Political Science, Rutgers University

    “Over the past three decades, it has become widely accepted in different parts of the world that transitions from oppression should be accompanied by a reckoning with past abuses of human rights. The purposes include the need to recognize and acknowledge the suffering of the victims; the importance of holding accountable those responsible for their suffering; and the crucial role of justice in promoting democratization. After Oppression: Transitional Justice in Latin America and Eastern Europe is the most comprehensive and insightful account of this process in two regions where it has played a crucial role.”

    Aryeh Neier, President Emeritus, Open Society Foundations