Workshop 5: Truth and justice in the wake of dictatorship and armed conflict by Jose Zelaquett


photos:Will Pollard

The Irdell Lecture is run by the Department of history and law at Lancaster University and is 15 year old lecture series for interdisciplinary scholars of history, society and law. As part of the fifth Designing Safe Living workshop dealing with Presentation, Documentation and Mediation, Jose Zalaquett was invited to speak with the IAS.

José Zalaquett is the Professor of Law at the Human Rights Centre at Chile University

José Zalaquett is probably Latin America’s foremost and most well known authority on human rights. He has taught as visiting professor at the Law Schools of Harvard University, New York University, the University of Maryland and the University of Toronto. Advocate of human rights. Head of amnesty international committees. President in American commission.Human rights missions to numerous countries. UNESCO + carter foundation. Arrested, detained and exiled in the past in his beliefs. Worlds most respected members of human rights. Field of Human rights in the world and in Chile.

Last 2 decades seen transition to democracy coined late 70s early 80s by Latin American scholars. Political change by democratic system, restoring, reconstructing that had been destroyed by war, dictatorship. Truth justice, reconciliation. Moral legal imperatives. Absence of law and break down of democratic systems

Goal of rebuilding a just society in wake of tyranny is hardly new goal in modern times. A Lincoln speech represents a moral code, in view of human tragedy and what inspired the US founding fathers. New society for all men, by the people for the people. Transition of justice, suggests position of character. Political ethics, dating back to 18th century, secular political ethics. What is right, fair and good concerning political organisation, public policy. Philosophical principals. What are rights of the citizen?

You had right to be king if related, if god anointed you or grabbed power and held onto it. Changed by secular morality. Sovereignty subject to the people. We are all endowed to equal and able rights. Orderly and legal way to deal with conflicts, not violent

The monopoly of force, Max Weber. UN charter, protection of human rights. Proclaimed by governments, in 60s internationalisation of public opinion e.g. Amnesty International, Human watch. National, regional ideas of human rights. Notion that had been structured by government. Periods of nationalisation of ethics. Now globalisation. Trite and household word. Internationalisation, not just trends and movement across nations. But trends, movements, events that go beyond communities, centuries old concept.

1648, hermetic concept of sovereignty. Now not a complete abolition. Ethics, what law ought to be, it is wrong to commit a crime, crimes are not committed. When ethics translates in to legal rules. How much more would it be hellish would it be if there were not rules or war? Vulnerable made by discrimination, e.g. women. Its not discrimination that creates a vulnerability. Transparency, accountability to corruption. Since 2nd world war. The common citizen can participate and have a multiplying affect (if only small). Not confident that government will not distort economy and torture people.

Human rights: Protection of basic rights of people, protections to environment, groups, corruption.

Political ethics: Is politics completely separate from ethics? Interest of others and not to lie

Are of politics had impact beyond whole nation and abroad. Therefore politics has special characteristics, Nelson Mandela, founder of modern South Africa. Successor very difficult to fit into new shoes.

Rule of law, human rights are there to question the government and make the accountable. A major crisis can destroy these rules. And create new rules. Until the 90s there were no consistent rules, ethical rules.

Had to reorganise until democracy to Argentina in 1993. In 1983, 9000 people disappeared in Argentina, cruel regime, defeated by Falklands war. Elections enabled first Argentinean president. World was aware of human right and the horrors of dictatorship government. Since WWII, reaction was go and do justice. But Argentinian had been defeated in highlands in an island. The military was dematerialized.

Glasnost, perestroika, enabled peaceful demonstrations and ended communist regimes, and the movement spread to Africa and East Europe. . Better rule and less bad democracy. In 80s, new awareness, what ever happened in South Africa may influence Peru, what put in practice in Argentina, relevant to Chile and relevance to SA. Cross national changes.

Countries that have been called to address this problem, some successful not all of them.

Not enough to look at reality and say I can do nothing, but look at how to put into practice and deal with the dilemmas. Partial changes:Latin America, Argentina,, Chile, Peru and el Salvador and Guatemala. Still waiting upon:Mexico, Panama, Haiti. Passive observers/cooperated with secret service: Africa, Chad Ethiopia, SA, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, N Ireland

Countries that have difficulties with new government and society in post conflict situations. Complete defeat of old forces, victory: Nicaragua 1979, then new emerged (had popular courts). Afghanistan, no efforts to deal with. East Timor, live under power of colonial Indonesian powers Pinot regime battled in ballot box and not the battle field. Ominous threat. Uganda: 1979 end of iddy armen.

Transition of politics post conflict and extreme human rights problems, delivers powers to more democratic outlook but they do not have total power. Administering the present and constructing the future. If you do things wrong in present administration you can really affect implications of the future

Truth justice, reconciliation

Truth: Orwellian truth (tells u what to think) not historic interpretation of what happened. But truth about the facts, namely, were there gas chambers, were there disappearances, yes or no. Need to establish these facts, can not resort to courts of law. Truth commissions, not legal panels. Not legal e.g. kangaroo court. Moral panels, telling the nations as a reasonable account. Why? when there are major crimes when concealed or denied. States of denial: LSE professor wrote book, One is affected by loyalty and truth.

Fidel Castro: Suppression of civil liberty but highlighting good health and sport systems!

ANC party, desegregate between court and truth. When is the government wrong or right. The truth has to be revealed as it has been denied. Country has to acknowledge the truth.

Reparation: compensation

Justice: SA restorative justice, to bring back country where people can enjoy their own dignity, Compensation, rehabilitation or restitution. Forgiveness.

How to reconcial principals and realities? Max Weber 1918 conference. Distinction between ethics, responsibility and conscious. Responsibility demands both actions. Did not take into account his actions and appeasement. Not baby steps but minding reality, cautions and dramatic actions, not just baby steps.

Ultimate end, believes principals, eyes in the stars and not minding the stones on the road. Up to rulers to follow their maxim. Transition from dissident to rulers: from prophet to king. In contemporary time that began as prophets then became rulers: Nelson Mandela and Hobble. He changed notion of responsibilities, and can not afford to think that he is the only one to bare the responsibilities. How to prosecute all those involved in regime. Provided truth commission by shaming those that did what they did. Can not prosecute all those involved. Mandela always knew that when acting in public arena, it is never a personal matter, it is business all along. To pursue highest political ideas, guided by ethical responsibilities.


Imogen tyler

Transition to democracy: in Baghdad can create fear rather than joy. Have these meaning become perverted in current times?

Emmanuel Kant: perpetual peace: government institutions. World is controlled by Half rule of force and half rule of law. CHINA< RUSSIA<INDIA Prophet + family. King and state

If endower prophet with power it is very dangerous, Mandela and Hobble was rare. Power can easily turn into tyranny. Mandela: Ghandi, Luther king etc.

Demonise or superhuman: do not forget they are fallible. Mandela hesitated because his truth commission had to deal with the crimes his party committed. Arms against the government, Fallibility and weaknesses are needed as they would do away with human nature. What are the possible and realistic scenarios? Not dream scenarios.

Responsibility to protect

Truth commissions

Argentina Chile Peru, SA, Guatemala, El Salvador others have been seen as white washing and produced no real results.

Informed citizens to act is important.

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