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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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From Velvet Revolution to velvet justice: The case of Slovakia

During the first 15 years after the 1989 “Velvet Revolution”, Slovakia’s approach to transitional justice made it an outlier among formerly Communist countries. More than most, it seemed disposed towards forgiving and forgetting the injustices of the preceding regime. Whereas Czechoslovakia quickly instituted restitution laws, Slovakia (which split from the Czech Republic in 1993) carried out very little lustration, has prosecuted only one former regime official to date (and suspended the sentence) and was the last country in the region to open the Communist-era secret police files to the citizenry. This contrasts sharply with the Czech Republic’s stringent approach to the same past regime. That said, in late 2004, Slovakia began to employ a new strategy – publishing information about the former secret police online – that has proved more successful than others in sparking a substantive societal conversation about the past.

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