Article Highlight | 11-May-2022

Measures to redress massive human rights violations

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

A study by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) analyses and contextualizes the concept of "transitional justice" in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Human Rights System.

All States have the obligation to guarantee human rights. To do this, they must have different mechanisms which allow them to carry out efficient investigations to find those responsible for massive human rights violations, conduct a fair trial with the corresponding guarantees and condemn criminal acts. The notion of "transitional justice", coined in 1990, refers to these legal mechanisms, originally designed to respond to the problems that arose when a government came to power after its predecessors had committed violations of these rights.

This study, carried out by Florabel Quispe Remón, a researcher in the UC3M Department of Public International Law, analyses the origin and evolution of transitional justice, determining its characteristics, the historical and political context in which it developed and the role of this legal concept in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Human Rights System. "Many of these crimes have not been investigated by the governments that succeeded others that had committed human rights violations. In many cases, amnesty laws have been adopted, leaving the direct and indirect victims unprotected," explains the researcher.

The research describes how the Inter-American Court (an autonomous judicial institution whose purpose is to apply and interpret the American Convention on Human Rights), must apply measures to enforce the basic principles of transitional justice.

These principles include the recognition of the dignity of victims, the right to historical memory and to know the truth about what happened, the State's obligation to assume responsibility and repair damages, and the end of impunity for those responsible for the facts. "This involves the adoption of mechanisms that facilitate access to justice for vulnerable groups, taking their needs into account, as well as the appointment of Truth Commissions and the establishment of specific bodies responsible for gathering information on the victims and the facts, leaving a record of what happened," says Quispe.

The ultimate goal of transitional justice is the reconciliation of society, since impunity for these crimes creates deep-rooted resentment which prevents peaceful coexistence. States being held liable for the actions of governments is the first step in regaining public confidence in their institutions and in their countries.

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