Prof. Vesselin Popovski at the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan, the academic arm of the United Nations, has initiated and brought to completion a large project comparing transitional justice experiences in Eastern Europe and Latin America. This project, conducted with the assistance of the United Nations University, Oxford University, and El Colegio Mexico, has resulted in a conference organized at Oxford University and a volume that will be published with UNU Press. A description of the project, which included a contribution on Romania that I signed, is available here.

“The gross violations of human rights in Latin America and Eastern Europe under authoritarian regimes created growing popular anger that finally exploded in mass revolts and demands for change, bringing the regimes to an end. It was a bottom-up process: a gradually rising discontent of ordinary people, who in the aftermath of the changes, made continuous calls for justice and accountability for the perpetrators of human rights violations, and simultaneous calls for compensation for the victims of these violations. The demands for justice and compensation faced initial reluctance, partly because political forces connected to previous regimes remained powerful and influential.

The processes of transitional justice have been controversial and complex, zigzagging from extreme demands for severe punishment to similarly unacceptable calls for blanket unqualified forgiveness. Transitional justice has had to perform a balancing act: paying full respect to grievances — traumatic, deeply emotional and divisive — while also taking into consideration strategies for societal reconciliation and future stability.”

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