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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 1 .

Transitional Justice and the Rule of Law in New Democracies
A James McAdams ed.,

(Notre Dame:University of Notre Dame Press, 1997).
306pp. Index. ISBN 0-268-04262-0
Pb.: $20.00; ISBN:0-268-04203-9.

This is a highly original collection of essays on how the courts in eight different countries have coped with the transition to democratic statehood and adoption of the rule of law. The editor, in his Preface, and Juan Méndez, in Chapter 1, neatly outline the arguments for and against such retrospective proceedings. Often they appear justified, but in practice turn out to be a travesty of justice. On balance the "successful" countries have been Bolivia, Germany, Greece and Hungary; transitional justice has been less effective in Argentina, Chile and Poland. It remains too early to fully assess the performance of South Africa.

The problems in question are best settled by international law, but a prerequisite is the establishment of an international tribunal. The flaws in the Nuremberg system have largely been ironed out (as far as norm-setting is concerned), and all that remains to be settled are the rules governing the jurisdiction of an International Criminal Court. In June 1998 a UN Conference in Rome should produce such an agreement and within two further years dictators will know that they are ultimately answerable not just to their own people but to the world community.

Brice Dickson, University of Ulster

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