Messy quest for justice

MAY Transitional Justice in Peru B2Transitional Justice in Peru
Rebecca K Root
2012, Palgrave Macmillan
216 pages, hardback


THIS little book packs a poweful punch, offering, through the case study of Peru, a perfect primer on the subject of transitional justice. Well-written, conceptually clear and, as a result, highly accessible, it reveals the many contradicitons and tensions at the heart of this issue by focusing on a country that, as author Rebecca Root points out, captures the very Zeitgeist of a phenomenon still largely novel. Much of the evolution of transitional justice – the messy, uneven, often harrowing and always controversial legal effort to account for, if not necessarily punish, human rights abuses following civil wars and authoritarian atrocities – took place in the first decade of the 21st century, the period in which Peru embarked on its own process of self-reflection. Over the past 35 years Peru has experienced a brutal civil war, a democratic transition and renewed authoritarian interludes, political turmoil, riots and corruption. After 2000 it embarked courageously on a process of transitional justice that has employed at various times almost every instrument in the legal toolkit: official apologies, reparations programmes, a truth and reconciliation commission and prosecutions. For the student of transitional justice and human rights, there is everything. Root writes: “Peru has gone farther and faster in pursuit of transitional justice than any other Latin American country, and perhaps any country in the world … In the process it has established important precedents that will impact future transitional justice experiences.” Yet Peru’s experience has also been under-reported and under-studied, and Root’s book takes an important step towards redressing this so that the valuable lessons provided by this country can be employed elsewhere.