Making Genocide “Family-Friendly”: Preservation of Memory in El Salvador

The recent “Truth, Trials and Memory Conference” at the University of Minnesota revealed an often overlooked concern in the field of Transitional Justice, namely that of the family, and its place and function for a forward-looking memory that is passed on from one generation to another. The panel on Memory in El Salvador took on a sentimental tone centered on the ideals and utopias held by one generation, as well as memories of political violence and victimhood experienced addressing how the next generation engages with them.

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“Truth telling is one leg of a process that also has to include justice”: Interview with Human Rights Expert Professor Juan Mendez (Part 2)

Professor Méndez participated this month in the International Conference Truth, Trials and Memory. An Accounting of Transitional Justice in El Salvador and Guatemala at the University of Minnesota. After his panel on “Truth-seeking Lessons from the Guatemala Experience”, he shared more insights with Michael Soto (UMN Graduate Student, Sociology). Below, is the second part of their exchange on truth-telling.

 

Some authors, such as Martha Minow, have suggested that truth commissions are “second best” accountability tools. Could you please share your thoughts in response?

She was writing about South Africa, and I think her writing was very significant, and a great contribution to the transitional justice literature. But South Africa is a very special place, and special circumstance. I think it is true that for South Africa, if amnesty was part of the game, that a truth telling exercise was second best, but it was good to have. And I still think that the truth commission in South Africa made some great contributions.

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“Reconciliation means that the root causes of the tragedies of human rights violations are understood, assessed and transformed”: Interview with Human Rights Expert Professor Juan Méndez (Part 1)

Professor Méndez participated this month in the International Conference Truth, Trials and Memory. An Accounting of Transitional Justice in El Salvador and Guatemala at the University of Minnesota. After his panel on “Truth-seeking Lessons from the Guatemala Experience”, he shared more insights with Michael Soto (UMN Graduate Student, Sociology). Below, is the first part of their exchange on peace processes.

Juan E. Méndez, a native of Argentina, is a Professor of Human Rights Law in Residence at the American University – Washington College of Law, where he is Faculty Director of the Anti-Torture Initiative. In February 2017, he was named a member of the Selection Committee to appoint magistrates of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace and members of the Truth Commission set up as part of the Colombian Peace Accords. He has previously held positions as UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and the Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the Prevention of Genocide.

  Continue reading ““Reconciliation means that the root causes of the tragedies of human rights violations are understood, assessed and transformed”: Interview with Human Rights Expert Professor Juan Méndez (Part 1)”

Student Spotlight: Paula Cuellar

Paula was born in El Salvador and, because of the armed conflict in that country, she and her family fled to Mexico at a very young age where she was raised. After the armed conflict ended, she returned to El Salvador where she pursued her LL.B. at the Central American University “José Simeón Cañas.” After graduation, Paula worked as a judicial clerk at the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador for seven years and, also, as a professor at the Central American University “José Simeón Cañas.” In the year 2009, she moved to South Bend, Indiana, to pursue a LL.M. at the University of Notre Dame du Lac. When she returned to El Salvador inPaula Cuellar Photo (1).jpg 2010, she was appointed as the Director of the International Assistance Unit, until she decided to move to Minnesota in 2013 to pursue her Ph.D. in History major and Human Rights minor. Paula was the 2014-2015 Badzin Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She is currently the USC Shoah 2016-2017 Graduate Research Fellow, a 2016-2017 American Association of University Women International Fellow, and a 2016-2017 University of Minnesota Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow.

Paula is interested in the question of genocide in Central America. Specifically, her intention is to debate whether scorched earth operations conducted as part of a state policy during the civil war of the 1980s in Guatemala and El Salvador indeed constituted genocidal practices per se, independently of the group targeted. Since the victims of such military operations are far more likely to be women, children and seniors, she is also interested in studying the diverse forms of sexual violence to which women and girls are subjected to by the perpetrators during the conduction of these military tactics.

Paving the Way for Justice in El Salvador

On July 13, 2016, after more than 23 years of its enactment, the “General Amnesty Act for the Consolidation of Peace” was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador. In what has become a landmark ruling for the victims of the armed conflict, the highest court of justice has opened up the possibility to try those people from both warring parties who perpetrated the most egregious international crimes during one of the bloodiest wars that took place in Latin America in the twentieth century.

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