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After Oppression

Transitional Justice in Latin America and Eastern Europe

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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.

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Transitional justice and democratic consolidation

It is nearly three decades since Argentina embarked upon the odyssey that has most influenced modern experiences of transitional justice. Along the way, the story of transitional justice became wrapped up in the narrative of democratization. On their different voyages to democratization, countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America acknowledged the importance of aspirations for transitional justice, but little beyond that. Across continents, new authorities came under varying pressures to reckon with their countries’ respective pasts. Had the goals of transitional justice been easy to achieve, its story would have ended there. On the whole, it did not. As the cases included in this volume vividly illustrate, determining how to reconcile transitional justice and democratic consolidation is anything but easy. Yet, as the Arab Spring moves on a season, it again becomes clear that the way in which countries manage this tension will most likely define the character of new regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. Experiences in Eastern Europe and Latin America amply indicate that the readiness or disinclination of authorities to pursue old crimes has an impact on the behaviour of security and intelligence forces in the immediate present. So, the experiences of transitional justice and democratization in Eastern Europe and Latin America are not closed chapters. Their potential to instruct about the future is surprisingly fertile.

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