Since the onset of the third wave of the democratization in the 1980s, debates about transitional justice have become a permanent feature of the political landscape across Latin America, pitting pro- and anti-impunity coalitions in heated fights over memory, institutions, and the law. The protracted nature of victims’ struggles as well as the recurrence of backlash against progress in the direction of truth, justice, and peace, have turned the region into a unique site of global innovation in transitional justice policies. Much of this innovation is the result of complex political bargains crafted under narrow limits of possibility, but also of the gradual bottom-up construction of a rights-affirming legal discourse grounded in international human rights law. This discourse has successfully questioned (and sometimes replaced) an old legal orthodoxy that originally was one of the main obstacles for truth- and justice-seeking initiatives. In this talk I will describe how a combination of social mobilization and legal entrepreneurship paved the way for Latin America’s landmark achievements in the field of transitional justice, and discuss what lessons, if any, the specific genesis of these victories can offer for the United States.
Ezequiel Gonzalez-Ocantos (Ph.D. Notre Dame, 2012) is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Oxford, and Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College. He is the author of Shifting Legal Visions: Judicial Change and Human Rights Trials in Latin America (Cambridge UP, 2016), winner of best book awards from APSA, LASA and ISA, and The Politics of Transitional Justice in Latin America: Power, Norms and Capacity Building (Cambridge UP, 2020). His work on judicial politics and other topics has also appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, International Studies Quarterly, Law and Society Review, and The International Journal of Constitutional Law, among other journals. He is currently writing a book on the politics of corruption prosecutions in Latin America.
This event is part of The 2021-2022 Blueprint for Transitional Justice in the US: Building on Lessons and Insights from Global Perspectives Series presented by the Illinois Global Institute in partnership with Center for African Studies, Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, Center for Global Studies, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, European Union Center, Lemann Center for Brazilian Studies, and Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program. This series is made possible by the Chancellor’s 2021-2022 Call to Action to Address Racism & Social Injustice Research Program and co-sponsored by the Humanities Research Institute. Additional support is provided by the Department of Education Title VI Program.