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University of Notre Dame
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Transitional Justice and the Struggle against Impunity

Lessons for Mexico from Latin America

Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)
Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame

Mexico City, October 21–22, 2016
Santa Fe Auditorium, CIDE

Objectives: What is our aim?

Latin America has been widely recognized as one of the pioneering world regions in the use of transitional justice mechanisms to confront state impunity and overcome long histories of gross human rights violations. But Mexico has been absent from this human rights revolution. This conference gathers leading Mexican academics and social leaders to engage in a dialogue with international experts and human rights practitioners around two important questions:

  • What can Mexico learn from the best transitional justice practices in Latin America?

  • Would transitional justice mechanisms help the country overcome the unprecedented crises of insecurity, gross human rights violations and state impunity?

Justicia Content: What does the conference entail?

The conference will focus on truth-seeking processes and their impact on the search for justice. We will try to understand why truth commissions and processes of historical memory have played a foundational role in the struggle against impunity and toward justice in postauthoritarian and post-conflict societies.

We will focus on three experiences: 1) Peru, where the state sponsored one of the most successful truth commissions in Latin America; 2) Guatemala, where the Catholic Church led an independent project of historical memory, which served as the basis for the UN-sponsored truth commission; and 3) Colombia, where in the midst of war, civil society spearheaded a process of historical memory, which was later on extended and sponsored by the state.

Our hope is to understand when truth-seeking processes open the way to justice—domestic judicial prosecution against perpetrators of gross human rights violations, reparations in favor of victims, and major institutional reforms that can serve as guarantors of no-repetition.

Why Mexico?

Mexico is undergoing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Ten years after the state declared the “War on Drugs” and organized crime, the numbers are staggering: 150,000 deaths, 30,000 people missing, thousands of displaced families, and hundreds of massacres. But we know little about these victims because the state declines to share any meaningful information and because 98% of crime in Mexico remains unpunished.

What we do know is that agents from state institutions have played a key role in the production of criminal violence—when they defect from the armed forces and the police and join organized crime; when they protect criminals from their position of power; or when they fight criminals using illegal practices and stimulate, rather than deter, violence. We also know that these state agents are part of the same security and judicial institutions that committed gross human rights violations during the authoritarian period and that remained untouched under democracy.

Conference participants will discuss whether transitional justice mechanisms could help Mexico break the linkages between a long history of impunity and recurring cycles of violence.

Why CIDE and the University of Notre Dame?

CIDE and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame are academic institutions with a long tradition of scholarly research and the promotion of democratic institutions and practices and of human rights and justice. We hope that the global dialogue that both institutions are spearheading will help Mexico think about best practices in the struggle against impunity and about policies and actions that would channel the country on the path toward truth, peace, and justice.

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