From Victimhood to Political Protagonism: Victim Groups and Associations in the Process of Dealing with a Violent Past



This chapter focuses on the organised victims as collective political actors in post-conflict-societies. After proposing a typology of victim groups and pointing out the particularities of post-authoritarian human rights policies the political role of the victim organisations will be analysed. It will be argued, that the existence of political relevant victim groups is a necessary pre-condition for broader attempts to deal with the past human rights violations. Victim groups are essential for putting the issue on the public and political agenda. But while the existence of these groups is a necessary condition, it is by no means a sufficient one. Whether they are able to succeed or not depends on a variety of different aspects. Finally, it will be pointed out that the victim groups also play a tragic role, since their fundamental goals can never be realised.


Latin America Victims Victims organisations Transitional justice Post-conflict transition Political action Civil society 


  1. Barahona de Brito A (1997) Human rights and democratization in Latin America: Uruguay and Chile. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Barahona de Brito A, González-Enríquez C, Aguilar P (2001a) Introduction. In: Barahona de Brito A, González-Enríquez C, Aguilar P (eds) The politics of memory. Transitional Justice in Democratizing Societies. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 1–39Google Scholar
  3. Barahona de Brito A, González-Enríquez C, Aguilar P (2001b) Conclusion. In: Barahona de Brito A, González-Enríquez C, Aguilar P (eds) The politics of memory. Transitional Justice in Democratizing Societies. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 303–314Google Scholar
  4. Cobb R, Ross J-K, Ross MH (1976) Agenda building as a comparative political process. APSR 70:126–138Google Scholar
  5. Comisión Ética contra la Tortura (2004) Tortura nunca más, por el derecho a vivir en paz. Comisión Ética contra la Tortura, SantiagoGoogle Scholar
  6. da Silva Catela L (2001) No habrá flores en las tumbas del pasado. La experiencia de reconstrucción del mundo de los familiares de desaparecidos. Ediciones Al Margen, La PlataGoogle Scholar
  7. Fuchs R, Nolte D (2004) Politikfeld Vergangenheitspolitik: Zur Analyse der Aufarbeitung von Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Lateinamerika. Lateinamerika Analysen 9:59–92Google Scholar
  8. Huyse L (2003) Victims. In: Bloomfield D, Barnes T, Huyse L (eds) Reconciliation after violent conflict. A handbook. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Stockholm, pp. 54–66Google Scholar
  9. Jelin E (2002) Los trabajos de la memoria. Siglo Ventiuno, MadridGoogle Scholar
  10. King PJ (1989) Comparative analysis of human rights violations under military rule in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay. Stat Abstr Lat Am 27:1043–1065Google Scholar
  11. Longoni A (2005) Traiciones. La figura del traidor (y la traidora) en los relatos acerca de los sobrevivientes de la represión. In: Jelin E, Longoni A (eds) Escrituras, imágenes y escenarios ante la represión. Siglo Ventiuno, Madrid, pp. 203–240Google Scholar
  12. Loveman B (1999) For La Patria. Politics and the armed forces in Latin America. Scholarly Resources, WilmingtonGoogle Scholar
  13. Loveman M (1998) High-risk collective action: defending human rights in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. Am J Sociol 104:477–525Google Scholar
  14. Madres y familiares de Uruguayos detenidos desaparecidos (2010) Nuestra historia. Accessed 21 October 2011
  15. Novaro M, Palermo V (2004) La dictadura militar 1976/1983. Del golpe de estado a la restauración democrática. Paidós, Buenos AiresGoogle Scholar
  16. O’Donnell G (1999) Polyarchies and the (Un)rule of law in Latin America: a partial conclusion. In: Méndez J, O’Donnell G, Pinheiro PS (eds) The (un)rule of law & the underprivileged in Latin America. Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Notre Dame, pp. 303–337Google Scholar
  17. Pion-Berlin D (1994) To prosecute or to pardon? Human rights decisions in the Latin American Southern Cone. Hum Rights Q 16:105–130Google Scholar
  18. Strassner V (2005) Die Comisión Nacional sobre Prisión Política y Tortura – ein neues Kapitel in der Aufarbeitung des Staatsterrorismus in Chile. Lateinamerika Analysen 12:37–62Google Scholar
  19. Strassner V (2006) ¡La lucha continúa! Der Kampf um die Erinnerungen an die Verschwundenen der argentinischen Militärdiktatur. Totalitarismus und Demokratie 5:345–368Google Scholar
  20. Strassner V (2007) Die offenen Wunden Lateinamerikas. Vergangenheitspolitik im postautoritären Argentinien, Uruguay und Chile. Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  21. United Nations (1985) Declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime and abuse of power. General Assembly Resolution 40/34, 29 Nov 1985. Accessed 8 August 2012
  22. United Nations (2006) Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law. General Assembly Resolution 60/147, 21 March 2006. Accessed 8 Aug 2012
  23. Windhoff-Héritier A (1987) Policy-Analyse. Eine Einführung. Campus, Frankfurt am MainGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the authors 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kurt Schumacher SchoolIngelheimGermany

Personalised recommendations