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After Amnesties are Gone: Latin American National Courts and the New Contours of the Fight Against Impunity

Human Rights Quarterly, Forthcoming

UC Hastings Research Paper No. 96

50 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2014  

Naomi Roht-Arriaza

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Latin America is the one region that, in the wake of massive and systematic violations of human rights, has made inroads into trying these crimes in national courts. After decades in which cases were dismissed on grounds of amnesty, statutes of limitations, or other impediments to trial, these barriers have, in a majority of countries, fallen. This turnaround — while fragile and incomplete — is remarkable. It provides important, and inspirational, lessons for lawyers, judges and advocates in other regions, and for international justice efforts.

Cases involving international crimes in the courts of Latin American countries have gone through distinct phases. In the first, advocates confronted barriers to bringing the cases into court at all. In the second, current phase, courts are facing the challenges of organizing trials that involve hundreds of defendants and victims, or using the elements of crimes like genocide to show the overall patterns of atrocity. A final, emerging phase shifts the focus from trial to punishment. This phase has led to creative — and controversial — propositions about reduced sentences, suspended sentences, and alternatives to imprisonment in cases involving international crimes.

Suggested Citation

Roht-Arriaza, Naomi, After Amnesties are Gone: Latin American National Courts and the New Contours of the Fight Against Impunity (2014). Human Rights Quarterly, Forthcoming; UC Hastings Research Paper No. 96. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2409077

Naomi Roht-Arriaza (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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