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Expansion of Transitional Justice Measures: A Comparative Analysis of Its Causes

American Political Science Association Best Dissertation Award (Human Rights Section) 2009

Committee: Kathryn Sikkink (advisor), Michael Barnett, Mary Dietz, John Freeman, Helga Leitner

Scholars have paid increasing attention to the global spread of human rights norms and one of the most important manifestations is the expansion of transitional justice measures. The number of states using human rights trials and truth commissions is increasing since the well-known case of Argentina in the 1980s. By 2004, 52 out of 100 transitional countries used either trials or truth commissions to address past abuses. What explains this global spread of accountability norms and why do states use transitional justice measures? Why do past violations lead to effective demands for truth and justice against powerful state officials who have traditionally been protected from accountability? My dissertation provides the first broadly comparative answer to this question, and bolsters the cross-national evidence through an in-depth exploration of the first South Korean truth commission case. While the conventional scholarly wisdom suggests that transitional justice measures will either be adopted immediately after a transition or never, my quantitative and case study evidence supports a different interpretation. First, I find that transitional justice measures are more likely to be used after a country becomes a consolidated democracy, not immediately after a transition. Second, I find that this likelihood is driven by the persistence of strong civil society movement, which strongly refutes the previous agreement that demand for truth and justice would diminish over time. Third, I find strong evidence for the diffusion of neighbor’s experience. States are more likely to use transitional justice measures if such measures have already been used by the neighbors. However, the impact of neighbor’s experience is most effective in the year of transition and diminished over time, which suggests that endogenous factors such as domestic advocacy and democratic consolidation become more significant in delayed justice.

Part 1: Global Analysis
  • Chapter 2. The Use of Human Rights Trials in Transitional States
  • Chapter 3. The Establishment of Truth Commissions in Transitional States
Part 2: Case Study: South Korea
  • Chapter 4. Korea and Jeju 4.3 Events
  • Chapter 5. Suppressed yet Stubborn Truth
  • Chapter 6. From Oblivion to Social Attention
  • Chapter 7. The Struggle of the Periphery, 1993~1997
  • Chapter 8. The Establishment of the 4.3 Committee
  • Chapter 9. Conclusion

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