The authors of this article suggest, and provide evidence, that the presence of legal participation rights within Latin American judicial systems assist in individual criminal accountability of domestic human rights violations. They believe that participation rights, knows as private prosecution rights, serve as the causal mechanism for how societal actors impact human rights prosecutions. They argue that these rights provide the legal framework that allows societal actors to push for accountability from below via litigation in domestic courts.
The authors outline the history of private prosecution and then use three case studies, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, to demonstrate how private prosecution rights assist societal actors to push for justice of past human rights abuses. They provide the political history of the judicial systems in each country and the evolution of democracy in each which they tie to the availability of private prosecution rights. Uruguay is noted as the example that does not possess the right of private prosecution. The authors then compare Uruguay’s judicial system to Argentina and Chile to demonstrate the difference in numbers of cases in each country as contingent on the availability of private prosecution rights, with Uruguay having significantly less prosecutions. The authors procured their own data and created the first systematic database in attempt to code the use of private prosecution in Latin America in the prosecutions of human rights crimes that occurred before, during, and between democratic transition. As the authors noted, the data available for this study is quite limited, as the study of this theory is untouched, however they believe the data is sufficient.
The intended audience of the study belongs to those who study human rights. The authors have invited researches to pursue studies that help further assess under what conditions victims’ participation rights matter to explain variances across countries and regions, and into explaining the timing of the prosecutions, the quantity of the prosecutions, as well as these variations observed across countries and regions.
I selected the photo below to accompany Michel and Sikkin’s annotation as it accompanied an article titled “Argentina Continues to Seek Truth and Justice, Despite the Hurdles”, written by By Daniel Gutman. The article articulates the long term struggle for, and eventual success of, domestic accountability for human rights abuses.
Caption: Outside the courtroom in the city of Buenos Aires, the relatives of victims of the dictatorship and human rights activists watched on a big screen the late November sentencing in the trial for the crimes committed during the de facto regime at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA). In the trial, which lasted five years, 29 people were sentenced to life imprisonment. Credit: Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentina-continues-seek-truth-justice-despite-hurdles/