Pursuing justice: what role for research evidence?
In Episode 4 of Series 2, Dixon Osburn from the Center for Justice and Accountability in San Fancisco talks about how human rights organisations pursue justice, and the sort of academic evidence used in efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights abuses and crimes.
- Explanation of the center’s mission and how the rule of law can be brought to bear in and on behalf of countries least able to hold perpetrators of the worst human rights abuses and crimes to account
- Dixon gives an example of a successful civil action brought in the US against former Pinochet officer, Pedro Pablo Barrientos who was accused of the torture and murder of a famous folk singer and had been living for 30 years in Florida
- Dixon explains how the legalities of the case worked and its wider significance and a discussion follows about the sort of justice and accountability the centre is trying to achieve on behalf of the victim’s family and the knock on impacts of the successful civil action in respect of a possible extradition to Chile.
- Discussion about ways in which a ‘creative’ approach can be taken to bringing human rights abusers to book. Todd mentions work by a colleague on the Ciudad Juárez murders in Mexico and how they showed that the US Alien Tort Act could be used to prosecute
- Dixon explains how in the case he cited earlier, the Torture Victim Protection Act was used to prosecute Barrientos and more recent efforts to prosecute the Syrian regime for war crimes under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act including how the case has been put together with the help and support of France and how and where the case is being heard
- Discussion around the importance of academic evidence and expertise in pursuing cases and explanation of how it is used and applied by the center.
- Dixon mentions a Guatemala genocide case where forensic anthropologists were used to examine the remains of murder victims
- Todd references the work of Patrick Ball and an earlier podcast episode where Patrick outlines some statistical work around the same events. Dixon agrees this type of evidence is critical to the work of the center
- Dixon mentions another recent case representing 45 Cambodian Americans for atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge. The work has involved a partnership with Stanford University looking at the impact off mass trauma on mental health
- Can academics do more/better to provide evidence that can help in the pursuit of justice? Dixon talks about the links between democracy and human rights and ongoing conversations with academics like Latin American expert, Kathryn Sikkink at Harvard University. Todd mentions Kathryn’s book, The Justice Cascade: how human rights prosecutions are changing world politics.
- Todd references Stephen Hopgood’s book, The End Times of Human Rights criticising the Human Rights movement
- Dixon talks about what he believes has been achieved and about the ability of the Human Rights movement to make positive incremental change over time
/// Other links from our partners at the OpenGlobalRights blog