UCL Institute of the Americas


AMER0015: The Politics of Human Rights in Latin America: Transitional Justice

***NOT RUNNING IN 2023/24***

Module convenor: Dr Par Engstrom

This module provides a comprehensive introduction to transitional justice and human rights issues more broadly in Latin America. It introduces students to the principal analytical debates on transitional justice, and it examines how and why the idea of human rights has come to play an important role in the domestic and international politics of Latin American countries. The module focuses in particular on the role of human rights in the transition from authoritarian to democratic forms of governance in Latin America, and it assesses the nature and implications of trends towards the transnationalisation of justice and their impact in the region. It examines the evolution over time of transitional justice trends in Latin America and assesses to what extent transitional justice "works".

The focus of the module is thematic rather than country-based, but examples will be drawn principally from the Southern Cone and Central America. The course is inter-disciplinary, drawing on politics, law and anthropology.

This module is assessed by means of a 4,000 word essay.

N.B. The module listed is offered subject to availability of staff, and may change without notice. The Institute will endeavour to enable students to take their preferred combination of courses subject to quotas and timetabling.

A list of introductory reading is given below. A full module reading list is issued at the beginning of the session.

Introductory Reading

  • Barahona de Brito, Alexandra, Carmen González-Enríquez, and Paloma Aguilar, eds., The Politics of Memory: Transitional Justice in Democratizing Societies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press (2001)
  • Cardenas, Sonia, Human Rights in Latin America: A Politics of Terror and Hope, University of Pennsylvania Press (2009)
  • Collins, Cath, Post-Transitional Justice: Human Rights Trials in Chile and El Salvador, Pennsylvania State Press (2010)
  • Lessa, F. and Leigh Payne (eds.), Amnesty in Age of Human Rights Accountability. Comparative and International Perspectives. New York. Cambridge University Press (2012)
  • Nino, Carlos S., Radical Evil on Trial. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press (1996)
  • Olsen, T. D., et al., Transitional Justice in Balance: Comparing Processes, Weighing Efficacy, Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace (2010)
  • Payne, Leigh, Unsettling Accounts: Neither Truth Nor Reconciliation in Confessions of State Violence, Duke University Press (2008)
  • Roht-Arriaza, Naomi and Javier Mariezcurrena (eds), Transitional Justice in the Twenty-First Century: Beyond Truth versus Justice, Cambridge University Press (2006)
  • Roniger, Luis and Mario Sznajder, The Legacy of Human Rights Violations in the Southern Cone: Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, Oxford University Press (1999)
  • Sikkink, Kathryn The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics, W.W. Norton, (2011)