European Identity and the Politics towards the Repressive Past – Madrid, 27-28 May 2010 Tuesday, May 25 2010 


26th May 2010

15:30 Registration

15:30-16:00 Official Opening
Paloma Biglino, Director, (CEPC)
Carlos Carnero, Special Ambassador for the EU, Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Francisco Fonseca Morillo, Head of the Office of Representation of the EU Commission in Spain
Eduardo Manzano Director, (CCHS)
Carlos Closa Montero Professor, (IPP-CSIC)

16:00-17:30 Opening conference
Pablo de Greiff (ICTJ, New York) What does Europe have to do with Transitional Justice?

17:30-18:00 Coffee Break

18:00-20:00 Session 1: Perpetrators and criminal justice (Amnesty, lustration, vetting)
Chair: Carlos Closa Montero (IPP-CSIC)
Yves Beigbeder (Webster University, Geneve) Prosecuting collaborationism
Vello Pettai (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg/University of Tartu) Dealing with the Post-Soviet Past: Explaining Divergent Lustration Policies in the Baltic States
Discussant: Jessica Alqmvist (UAM)

20:30 Dinner

27th May 2010

9:00-11:00 Session 2: Victims: rehabilitation, reparations and restitution
Chair: Jessica Almqvist (UAM)
Peter Romijn (Netherlands Institute for War Documentation) Rehabilitation, reparations and restitution programmes after WWII
Roman David (Newcastle University) Treatment of victims in post-Communists countries
Discussant: Felipe Gómez Isa (Universidad de Deusto)

11:00-1130 Coffee Break

11:30-13:30 Session 3: Awareness and memory: education, museums and archives
Chair: Carlos Thibaut (UC3M)
Lavinia Stan (St. Francis Xavier University) Access to the Archives in East European Countries
Clara Ramírez Barat (ICTJ, New York) The role of museums of memory in promoting awareness about the past in the European Union
Discussant: Francisco Ferrándiz (ILA-CSIC)

13:30-14:30 Lunch

14:30-16:30 Session 4: Symbolic politics: commemorations, homages, remembrance
Chair: José Álvarez Junco, (Professor, UCM)
Stathis Kalyvas (Yale University) Symbolic politics in Southern Europe
Andrejs Plakans (Iowa State University) A double totalitarian past. The case of Latvia
Discussant: Paloma Aguilar Fernández (CIS-UNED)

16:30-17:00 Coffee Break

17:00-19:15 Session 5: Framing European Identity in relation to its recent past: Public Discussion, History and Denial
Chair: Clara Mapelli (Sudirector CEPC)
Klaus Bachmann (University of Wroclaw) Explaining changes of Transitional Justice and public discourses on repressive past in five European countries
Claus Leggewie (Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities -KWI, Essen) Historians role in the public debate about the European past
Carlos Closa Montero (IPP-CSIC) Negotiating the past: Claims for recognition and policies of memory in the EU
Discussant: Pablo de Greiff (ICTJ, New York)

20:30 Dinner





Truth Commissions Thursday, May 20 2010 

Lavinia Stan, “Truth Commissions,” available at:

Countries emerging from periods of widespread human rights violations can choose from a number of different judicial and non-judicial methods designed to help them to come to terms with their recent past. Truth commissions represent one such method that is non-judicial and restorative, rather than judicial and retributive, in nature. While the primary purpose of court trials is to do justice to victims and their relatives, of lustration is to renew the political elite and sideline politicians who could be blackmailed because of their tainted past, of restitution is to return property abusively confiscated to its initial owners, the primary goals of truth commissions are to help post-dictatorial societies reach the truth about past human rights abuses and to achieve reconciliation.

The first truth commission was set up, under considerable international pressure, in Uganda in 1974 by Idi Amin to investigate human rights violations perpetrated during the 1971-1973 period, when a large part of the Indian and Pakistani community was evicted from the country. Since then, more than 30 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and North America set up truth commissions. These countries were dictatorships (Uganda in 1974), emerging democracies (Argentina, Estonia, Liberia or South Africa) or consolidated democracies (Canada, and the United States). Some countries were republics (Chile, Lithuania, Germany, and Sri Lanka), while others were monarchies (Morocco). Some commissions were set up by elected Presidents (Sri Lanka, Argentina, Romania, and the Baltic states), governments, ministers or Prime Ministers (Chile), ruling monarchs (Morocco), parliaments (Germany), or political parties (such as the African National Congress in South Africa). Commissions were the result of international pressures (Uganda in 1974), domestic calls (Germany, Romania, Canada) or a combination of the two (those in the Baltic states). Some were staffed by nationals (Canada), internationals (El Salvador) or a combination of the two (Romania and the Baltic states). Some commissions studied entire decades-long political regimes (South Africa, Germany, Romania and the Baltic states), while others were mandated to analyze only human rights violations that occurred during a relatively short time span (Argentina, Uganda in 1974). Some commissions investigated almost all prevalent types of abuses (Argentina, Guatemala and South Africa), while others focused only on gross human rights violations (the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission). Some commissions were able to conclude their work with the release of a final report (the best known being the Argentinian Nunca Mas), while others were less successful (Fiji, Bolivia, Zimbabwe). Most countries have had only one truth commission, but Uganda set up two (in 1974 and again in 1986), while Sri Lanka had three regionally-based commissions that conducted their investigations simultaneously. Finally, some commissions will give no names of perpetrators (Guatemala), others will give all names (Romania), and still others will release a selection of names (Argentina). In a bold move, the cfinal report of the ommission of Chad included both the names and photographs of the perpetrators.

Not all governmental, parliamentary or presidential commissions can be considered truth commissions. According to Heyner, truth commissions are distinguished by four broad characteristics. They 1) focus on the past, 2) paint a broad picture of human rights violations of violations of international law that occurred over a defined period, 3) carry out their activity over a defined period of time, often – but not always – releasing a final report at the end of their mandate, and 4) gain access to information held by both the outgoing and the new government and enjoy the protection needed to dig into sensitive matters. By this definition, institutional arrangements that investigate ongoing atrocities, conflicts and wars; are organized on a permanent basis (as research institutes or centers); and discuss isolated individual cases of past human rights infringements do not represent truth commissions. There is some controversy in the literature with respect to the possibility for truth commissions to be established by non-governmental actors (political parties, civil society groups, etc.), since these commissions might not be able to fulfill condition no. 4, that is, to gain access to sensitive governmental data. Heyner recognizes the two inquiry commissions set up by the African National Congress as truth commissions, but other authors point out that the ANC was the political party forming the government at the time the commissions were formed and they enjoyed support from Nelson Mandela, then President of South Africa. The number of civil society-based commissions is not large, but it could grow significantly if governments resist demands for truth. In Canada, for example, the civil society-based Truth Commission into Genocide led to the establishment of a government-backed commission in 2007, six full years after the release of its final report on the inhuman treatment of Aboriginal children in the Indial Residential School system.

Given the vast diversity of cases, there are no set criteria to evaluate the efficiency of truth commissions. Of course, these commissions will do more or less in a shorter or longer period of time depending on their original mandate, the degree of support they muster from victims and victimizers, government and the society at large, their organizational structure, as well as the tools they have at their disposal. Commitssions with only three months at their disposal will lack the ability to collect information from a variety of sources, while committees whose work extends for more than 4-5 years will be viewed as redundant and lacking in legitimacy. International commissions generally have impartiality, but lack legitimacy, whereas domestic commissions will always be suspected of promoting the position of the political actor who formed them. Commissions formed of politically independent members can have more legitimacy than commissions formed of representatives of political parties. Commissions with subpoena powers or the ability to grant amnesty can obtain testimonials from perpetrators that commissions deprived of such powers cannot.

Further readings:

Freemantle, T. Truth Commissions: Try to Put the Past to Rest, Houston Chronicle, 1996.
Heyner, P. Unspeakable Truths. London, Routledge, 2001.
Stan, L., ed., Transitional Justice in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union: Reckoning with the Communist Past, Routledge, 2008.

Transitional Justice, a Definition Tuesday, May 11 2010 

Lavinia Stan, “Transitional Justice,” available at:

Transitional justice refers to the measures and policies adopted by governments and civil society actors to address, and possibly redress, legacies of widespread and systematic human rights abuse, mass atrocity, genocide or civil war. In the growing scholarly literature developed during the last three decades and a half, “transitional justice” is often used interchangeably with terms and concepts such as “the politics of memory,” “the politics of history,” “the politics of memory,” “coming to terms with the past,” “reckoning with the past” or “de-communization.” The majority of countries confronting their recent past are new democracies attempting to move away from violent conflict, oppression and repression towards peace, democracy, the rule of law and respect for individual and collective rights, but a small fraction of countries are consolidated democracies. While some authors believe that transitional justice was first enacted after World War Ii, other authors place its origins much earlier.

The repertoire of methods governments can adopt to reckong with the recent past is vast and diverse. It includes court trials brought in national or international courts of law against high-ranking and low-ranking officials of the dictatorial regime; truth commissions reexamining the past in order to found out the truth about the repressive regime, and reconcile the society; programs to rewrite history textbooks in order to better reflect the plight of the victims; restitution of property abusively confiscated by the former regime; compensation packages for victims and/or their surviving relatives; and even the changing of names of streets and localities, the opening of new museums and exibitions, and the removal of statues of old dictators.

A country’s choice of a particular transitional justice method will depend first of all on the kind of atrocities it needs to address. For example, property restitution will not be adopted by countries where no property was confiscated in the past. Beyond this, the literature argues that countries will adopt more or less transitional justice depending on the nature of their dictatorial past (and the injustices inflicted), the type of exit from dictatorship to democracy, the balance of power between old and new elites in the first stages of democratization, and the legitimacy of the dictatorial and democratic regimes.

Tina Rosenberg drew attention to the fact that in Latin America repression was “deep,” while in eastern Europe it was “wide” to explain why very few court proceedings were launched against communist leaders and secret agents. John P. Moran also believed that “voice” (dissent) and “exit” (permission to emigrate) under communism explained a country’s appettite for revenge in post-communist times. According to Samuel Huntington, only Eastern European countries where the intransigent communist officials were replaced by new elites (Romania, East Germany) were willing to enact transitional justice legislation punishing former communist officials and secret agents. For Helga Welsh, the “politics of the present” rather than the “politics of the past” determined transitional justice. In other words, the balance of power between old and new elites predicted a country’s willingness to push transitional justice forward. New elites, drawn primarily from former dissident, anticommunist circles, were willing to enact transitional justice, whereas old elites who got a new lease on their political careers almost always blocked efforts to reexamine the past. Finally, Nedelsky and Stan argued that the legitimacy of the communist and post-communist elites explained why some countries reexamined and condemned their past sooner and more comprehensively.

Further readings:

Elster, Jon. Closing the Books. Transitional Justice in Historical Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Welsh, Helga. Dealing with the Communist Past: Central and East European Experiences after 1990. Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 48, no. 3 (May 1996), pp. 413-428.
Huntington, Samuel. The Third Wave of Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.
Kritz, Neil. Transitional Justice. How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes. Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace, 1995.
Nedelsky, Nadya. Divergent Responses to a Common Past: Transitional Justice in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Theory and Society, vol. 33, no. 1 (2004), pp. 65-115.
Stan, Lavinia. ed. Transitional Justice in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union: Reckoning with the Communist Past. London: Routledge, 2008.
Teitel, Ruti. Transitional Justice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002

Dosar Resentiment – Revista Verso Saturday, May 8 2010 

A aparut numarul 82 al revistei Verso, care cuprinde dosarul “Resentiment” alcatuit de Vladimir Tismaneanu pe marginea interventiilor … resentimentare care au avut loc in a doua jumatate a anului trecut. La el contribuie Mircea Cartarescu, Ioan T. Morar, Mihai Sora, Teodor Baconsky, Iulia Motoc, Sever Voinescu, Sorin Lavric, Cristian Preda, Vlad Muresan, Marta Petreu, Mihai Neamtu, Ioan Stanomir, Traian Ungureanu, Dragos Aligica, Bogdan Niculescu, Angelo Mitchievici, Mircea Mihaes, Horia Roman Patapievici, Lucian Turcescu si Lavinia Stan.

Revista este disponibila la: