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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 without a compass: Paramilitary demobilization in Colombia

Colombia’s experience with transitional justice is one of the tardiest in Latin America, perhaps with the exception of Brazil. It is also a much-needed one owing to the enormous number of victims and the length of the armed conflict. Yet, for many (Arango, 2008; Díaz, 2008; Hristov, 2010), it is still controversial whether the process of demobilization of approximately 52,000 combatants that started in 2003 really is a case of transitional justice. Human rights activists in particular have strongly denied that there has been any form of transition, contending instead that both war and authoritarianism are still ongoing. An intermediate view acknowledges a partial transition from war to peace, and the more optimistic outlook – based on recent successes of the state and the military over weakened FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) guerrillas – argues that a clear transition has taken place. In fact, some of these optimists assume more extreme positions, claiming that a double transition from war to peace and from authoritarianism to democracy has taken place (Orozco, 2009).

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