May 10, 2010 Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University
A key contention of the transitional justice movement is that the more comprehensive and
vigorous the effort to bring justice to a departed authoritarian regime the better the
democratizing outcome will be. This essay challenges this view with empirical evidence
from the Iberian Peninsula. In Portugal, a sweeping policy of purges intended to cleanse
the state and society of the authoritarian past nearly derailed the transition to democracy
by descending into a veritable witch-hunt. In Spain, by contrast, letting bygones be
bygones, became a foundation for democratic consolidation. These counter-intuitive
examples suggest that there is no pre-ordained outcome to transitional justice, and that
confronting an evil past is neither a requirement nor a pre-condition for democratization.
This is primarily because the principal factors driving the impulse toward justice against
the old regime are political rather than ethical or moral. In Portugal, the rise of
transitional justice mirrored the anarchic politics of the revolution that lunched the
transition to democracy. In Spain, the absence of transitional justice reflected the
pragmatism of a democratic transition anchored on compromise and consensus....
The United States of America finds that neither the classic instruments of criminal law and procedure, nor the framework of the laws of war (including respect for the Geneva Conventions) has been apt to address the terrorist threat. As a result it has introduced new legal concepts, such as "enemy combatant" and "rendition", which were previously unheard of in international law and stand contrary to the basic legal principles that prevail on our continent. Thus, across the world, the United States has progressively woven a clandestine "spider's web" of disappearances, secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers, often encompassing countries notorious for their use of torture. Hundreds of persons have become entrapped in this web, in some cases merely suspected of sympathising with a presumed terrorist organisation....
June 8, 2006 International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
The human rights situation deteriorated in numerous former Soviet republics. Independent
human rights monitoring groups, including several affiliates of the IHF, came under
attack. The Russian Federation, Belarus, and the Central Asian regimes promulgated
new legislation or changed their practices to allow these states arbitrarily to restrict the activities
of nongovernmental organizations. The leaders of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee
faced fabricated criminal charges, and in January 2006, state-controlled Russian media
falsely implicated the Moscow Helsinki Group in espionage....
The United States has progressively woven a clandestine "spider's web" of disappearances, secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers - spun with the collaboration or tolerance of Council of Europe member states, the Legal Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) said today. In a draft resolution adopted at a meeting in Paris, based on a report by Dick Marty (Switzerland, ALDE), the committee said hundreds of persons had become entrapped in this web - in some cases when they were merely suspected of sympathising with a presumed terrorist organisation. The parliamentarians said this knowing collusion of member states took several different forms, including secretly detaining a person on European territory, capturing a person and handing them over to the US or permitting unlawful "renditions" through their airspace or across their territory. "It# has now been demonstrated incontestably, by numerous well-documented and convergent facts, that secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving European countries have taken place, such as to require in-depth inquiries and urgent responses by the executive and legislative branches of all the countries concerned," the committee said. The committee called on Council of Europe member states to review bilateral agreements signed with the United States, particularly those on the status of US forces stationed in Europe, to ensure they conformed fully to international human rights norms. The report is due for debate by the plenary Assembly - which brings together 630 parliamentarians from the 46 Council of Europe member states - in Strasbourg on 27 June 2006....