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.



The unlikely outcome: Transitional justice in Chile, 1990-2008

In 2008, US pop-star Madonna went to Chile for the first time, to perform in Santiago. The local mass media paid great attention to this concert, the most expensive ever put on in Latin America. Interestingly, Madonna performed on 10 December, the International Day of Human Rights, and the concert was staged at the National Stadium, which had been the biggest prison camp after the military coup in 1973, holding about 15,000 prisoners during the first three months after the coup. Official sources have provided compelling evidence of torture and even summary executions inside and outside the stadium then. You might have thought that, on the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a concert at this site might have sparked some comment in the press, some small gesture of remembrance by human rights activists. If you had, you would have been wrong. Instead, the example shows the paradoxes and complexities with which Chile lives with regard to its past and its present. On the one hand, Madonna is a symbol of the modernity that Chile aims to achieve. On the other hand, the National Stadium is a silent testimony to Chile’s cruel past. While modernity was celebrated in live music and colours on 10 December, beneath the galleries a grey past was waiting to be remembered.


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