“This marvelous book combines lucid reason with deep passion. Cascading through the nooks and crannies of international life, justice’s call is now heard loud and clear by those in power. The Justice Cascade will become an instantaneous classic that all students of international politics will read and refer to for years to come.”
“The Justice Cascade is an immensely engaging account of a scholar’s own personal journey and of how to combine moral passion with systematic social scientific investigation.”
An unexpected strength of this book is the author's effective interweaving of scholarly analysis and personal reflection. In what amounts to almost a parallel narrative, she sheds her academic skin, injecting biographical notes, lively anecdotes, insightful stories and interviews into her narrative. This is refreshing and creative, infusing a level of human drama that should engage a much wider audience than political scientists and international lawyers. Justice Cascade is both a stimulating analysis of an emerging feature of world politics and a contribution toward increasing the odds that today's violators of human rights will one day be held accountable.
The Washington Post
In this dense, meticulously researched academic study, Sikkink, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, presents compelling evidence that the rise of human rights prosecutions deters state violence in other parts of the world. Defining the "justice cascade" as a dramatic trend in world politics that holds individual officials, including heads of state, "criminally accountable for human rights violations," Sikkink traces the idea's origins in the Nuremberg Tribunals after WWII, its re-emergence in the 1970s during the domestic trials in Greece and Portugal, and the high profile prosecutions in Argentina in 1985 that eventually inspired a wave of trials in Bolivia, Haiti, Guatemala, Chile, and Uruguay. Noting that certain conditions had to be in place for human rights prosecutions to take hold and spread—the world's revulsion of the genocide in the Balkans and Rwanda, the formation of the International Criminal Court—she examines the effects of these trials on democracy, conflict, and repression. Focusing on Latin America, which has had more prosecutions than any other region, she also examines the implications human rights trials have for more powerful countries like the U.S., where she zeroes in on our questionable human rights practices during the "war on terror." Though Sikkink offers insightful observations based on solid empirical data, this often dryly written, scholarly analysis, which includes detailed explanations of her research methods and comparisons to other studies, may not always engage a general audience. (Oct.)
A cogent, thoroughhistorical study of the gathering global momentum in holding state officials accountable for human-rights abuses, from Nuremberg to Guantánamo.
The trend toward human-rights activism throughout the 20th century, galvanized especially around opposition to the repressive military dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, has created what Sikkink (Political Science/Univ. of Minnesota) views as a deeply hopeful "justice cascade." Oriented in her research toward Latin America, the author concentrates mainly on the emergent groups that exposed abuses in those countries, which in turn empowered others to create "truth commissions" in the wake of violent official abuses, such as South Africa and the former Yugoslavia. Despite the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II, which put in place the model for state accountability, the enforcement of human-rights abuses lost steam mainly because the criminal leaders themselves still claimed immunity. In Greece and Portugal by the mid '70s, however, domestic courts held unprecedented trials of military personnel for crimes committed during their previous military dictatorships—unlike in Spain, where the passage of time and the Amnesty Law of 1977 blocked persecution of abuses perpetrated during General Franco's four-decade dictatorship. Human-rights organizations in support of the "disappeared" of Argentina ensured that Raúl Alfonsín's democratic government held trials—in turn setting off an outcry for accountability in neighboring Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia, making possible the extradition arrest of General Pinochet in 1998 and paving the way for the creation of the International Criminal Court and other important checks. Sikkink structures her fairly academic but highly readable study in three parts: the emergence of the zeitgeist, spurred by the American opposition to the Vietnam War in the late '60s; the diffusion of the ideas of accountability; and the impact of deterring world leaders from criminal activity—e.g., Bush administration officials being held accountable for torture cases at secret detention centers.
A distinguished work involving a significant marshalling of statistics and evidence that signals enormous hope for humanity in the coming century.