The legacy of abuse: confronting the past, facing the future
The origin of this volume dates back to late 1988, when several rights-abusing regimes in Latin America were moving toward becoming rights-respecting democracies. At that time, the Justice and Society Program of the Aspen Institute, with the support of the Ford Foundation, brought together a group of human rights scholars and advocates for a conference on State Crimes: Punishment or Pardon. Three background papers and the conference report were published and widely distributed the following year. At that time there appeared to be only two ways in which successor regimes might deal with human rights violators who had remained members of the community…arrest, prosecute, and punish, or amnesty and amnesia. Much has happened since: the birth of two ad hoc international criminal tribunals, national prosecutions for gross human rights violations, the advent of a permanent International Criminal Court, the proliferation of truth commissions, an emerging jurisprudence of universal jurisdiction, the detention of former heads of state, claims for compensation by victims of abuses endured more than a generation ago. Punishment or pardon are no longer the only available options. In 1999, the Hauser Global Law School Program at New York University School of Law, founded the Project on Transitional Justice, directed by Alex Boraine, the former Vice Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for South Africa. The Project’s experience with the issues of transitional justice, and the Aspen Institute’s earlier conference and publication, made for a felicitous institutional partnering in sponsoring a conference in November 2000, at Wye Woods, the Institute’s conference facility, on The Legacy of Abuse: Confronting the Past, Facing the Future.
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