Human Rights Review

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 321–342 | Cite as

Timing, Sequencing, and Transitional Justice Impact: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of Latin America

  • Geoff Dancy
  • Eric Wiebelhaus-BrahmEmail author


Transitional justice (TJ) scholars are increasingly concerned with measuring the impact of transitional justice initiatives. Scholars often assume that TJ mechanisms must be properly designed and ordered to achieve lasting effect, but the impact of TJ timing and sequencing has attracted relatively little theoretical or empirical attention. Focusing on Latin America, this article explores variation within the region as to when TJ occurs and the order in which mechanisms are implemented. We utilize qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to assess the impact of TJ timing and sequencing on democratic development. We find little evidence for path dependency owing to the chronological order of mechanisms. We do find, however, that amnesties and trials approach a sufficient condition for democratic consolidation in Latin America; trials, however, come closest to being a necessary condition for successful democratic consolidation.


Latin America Transitional justice Qualitative comparative analysis Fuzzy sets Amnesties Human rights trials 


  1. Abou-El-Fadl, R. (2012). Beyond Conventional Transitional Justice: Egypt’s 2011 Revolution and the Absence of Political Will. International Journal of Transitional Justice, 6, 318–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barahona de Brito, A. (1997). Human Rights and Democraization in Latin America: Uruguay and Chile. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boraine, A. (2000). Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: The Third Way. In Rotberg, R., & Thompson, D. (Eds.) Truth v. Justice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Buergenthal, T. (1994). The United Nations Commission for El Salvador. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 27(3), 498–544.Google Scholar
  5. Burt, J.-M. (2011). Challenging Impunity in Domestic Courts: Human Rights Prosecutions in Latin America. In Reátegui, F. (Ed.) Transitional Justice: Handbook for Latin America (pp. 285–314). Brasilia & New York: International Center for Transitional Justice.Google Scholar
  6. Buthe, T. (2002). Taking Temporality Seriously: Modeling History and the Use of Narratives as Evidence. American Political Science Review, 96(3), 481–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Collins, C. (2010). Post-transitional justice: human rights trials in Chile and El Salvador. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Crenzel, E. (2008). Argentina’s National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons: Contributions to Transitional Justice. International Journal of Transitional Justice, 2(2), 173–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dancy, G., & Michel, V. (2015). Human Rights Enforcement From Below: Private Actors and Prosecutorial Momentum in Latin America and Europe. International Studies Quarterly. doi: 10.1111/isqu.12209  10.1111/isqu.12209.
  10. Dukalskis, A. (2011). Interactions in Transition: How Truth Commissions and Trials Complement or Constrain Each Other. International Studies Review, 13, 432–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elster, J. (2004). Closing the Books: Transitional Justice in Historical Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fletcher, L., Weinstein, H.M., & Rowen, J. (2009). Context, Timing, and the Dynamics of Transitional Justice: A Historical Perspective. Human Rights Quarterly, 31, 163–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Freeman, M., & Hayner, P. (2003). Truth-Telling. In Bloomfield, D. (Ed.) Reconciliation After Violent Conflict: A Handbook. Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.Google Scholar
  14. Gilley, B. (2010). Democratic Triumph, Scholarly Pessimism. Journal of Democracy, 21(1), 160–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Grodsky, B.K. (2010). The Costs of Justice: How New Leaders Respond to Previous Rights Abuses. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hafner-Burton, E.M., & Ron, J. (2009). Seeing Double: Human Rights Impact through Qualitative and Quantitative Eyes. World Politics, 61(2), 360–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hayner, P. (2011). Unspeakable Truths Vol. 2. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Hazan, P. (2006). Measuring the Impact of punishment and forgiveness: a framework for evaluating transitional justice. International Review of the Red Cross, 88(36), 19–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huntington, S. (1991). The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  20. Kim, H., & Sikkink, K. (2010). Explaining the Deterrence Effect of Human Rights Prosecutions. International Studies Quarterly, 54(4), 939–963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kiss, E. (2000). Moral Ambition with and Beyond Political Constraints: Reflections on Resorative Justice. In Rotberg, R., & Thompson, D. (Eds.) Truth v. Justice (pp. 68–98). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kritz, N.J. (1995). Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace.Google Scholar
  23. Levi, M. (1992). A Model, A Method, and a Map: Rational Choice in Comparative and Historical Perspective. In Lichbach, M.I., & Zuckerman, A.S. (Eds.) Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lutz, E., & Sikkink, K. (2001). The Justice Cascade: The Evolution and Impact of Foreign Human Rights Trials in Latin America. Chicago Journal of International Law, 2(1).Google Scholar
  25. Meister, R. (2011). After Evil: A Politics of Human Rights. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Mezarroba, G. (2010). Between Reparations, Half Truths and Impunity: The Difficult Break With the Legacy of the Dictatorship in Brazil. Sur: International Journal on Human Rights, 7(13), 7–25.Google Scholar
  27. Minow, M. (1998). Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History after Genocide and Mass Violence. New York: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  28. Nino, C. (1996). Radical Evil on Trial. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Olsen, T.D., Payne, L.A., & Reiter, A.G. (2010). Transitional Justice in Balance: Comparing Processes, Weighing Efficacy. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace.Google Scholar
  30. Olsen, T.D., Payne, L.A., & Reiter, A.G. (2012). Conclusion: Amnesty in the Age of Accountability. In Lessa, F., & Payne, L.A. (Eds.) Amnesty in the Age of Human Rights Accountability (pp. 336–358). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Organization of American States (OAS). (1997). Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Ecuador. Washington D.C.: OAS.Google Scholar
  32. Pierson, P. (2000). Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics. American Political Science Review, 94(2), 251–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Quinn, J.R. (2010). The Politics of Acknowledgement: Truth Commissions in Uganda and Haiti. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
  34. Ragin, C. (1987). The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  35. Ragin, C. (1997). Turning the Tables: How Case-Oriented Research Challenges Variable-Oriented Research. Comparative Social Research, 16(27-42).Google Scholar
  36. Ragin, C. (2008). Redesigning Social Inquirty: Fuzzy Sets and Beyond. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Roht-Arriaza, N. (2005). The Pinochet Effect: Transnational Justice in the Age of Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Roniger, L. (2011). Transitional Justice and Protracted Accountability in Re-democratised Uruguay, 1985-2011. Journal of Latin American Studies, 43(4), 693–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Root, R.K. (2012). Transitional Justice in Peru. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schmitter, P.C. (2010). Twenty-Five Years, Fifteen Findings. Journal of Democracy, 21(1), 17–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Seligson, M., & Smith, A.E. (2010). The Political Culture of Democracy, 2010: Democratic Consolidation in the Americas in Hard Times. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University.Google Scholar
  42. Sikkink, K. (2011). The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions are Changing World Politics. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  43. Sikkink, K., & Walling, C.B. (2007). The Impact of Human Rights Trials in Latin America. Journal of Peace Research, 44(4), 427–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Snyder, J., & Vinjamuri, L. (2003). Trials and Errors: Principle and Pragmatism in Strategies of International Justice. International Security, 28(3), 5–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Thelen, K., & Steinmo, S. (1992). Institutionalism in Comparative Politics. In Steinmo, S., Thelen, K., & Longstreth, F. (Eds.) Structuring Politics: Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Wiebelhaus-Brahm, E. (2010). Truth Commissions and Transitional Societies, Security, and Governance. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Zalaquett, J. (1989). Confronting Human Rights Violations Committed by Former Governments: Principles Applicable and Political Constraints. In Aspen Institute (Ed.) State Crimes: Punishment or Pardon. Queenstown, MD: Aspen Institute.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.University of Arkansas at Little RockLittle RockUSA

Personalised recommendations