Transitional justice, much like the human rights system, has largely focused on redressing human rights violations committed within the geographical borders of states. But what happens when atrocities cut across state borders? What remedies, if any, are available to victims? Who ensures that these crimes are appropriately investigated and punished?
In this talk, Dr Lessa addresses these questions by analysing the case study of Operation Condor, namely a secret system for regional cooperation that allowed South America’s criminal states to detain, torture, and murder hundreds of political opponents beyond borders in the 1970s. In the first part, she provides an overview of how transnational repression operated in practice in South America between 1969 and 1981. Afterwards, she examines contemporary efforts to achieve justice for those same transnational atrocities, probing in detail on the so-called “Italian Operation Condor trial” (2015-2019), which she closely monitored as part of her current research project.
Dr Francesca Lessa is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Latin American Centre of the University of Oxford and the honorary president of the Observatorio Luz Ibarburu (Uruguay). She is also an Academic Affiliate at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and a member of St. Antony’s College, both at Oxford. In 2020, she received the University of Oxford’s Awards for Excellence 2019. She is the author of Memory and Transitional Justice in Argentina and Uruguay: Against Impunity (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). She received her PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics in 2010. Her research interests include human rights, transitional justice, impunity, and the politics of memory in South America. Her current project focuses on transnational repression in South America and accountability for Operation Condor atrocities. Her second monograph, currently in progress, is entitled The Condor Trials: Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America, to be published by Yale University Press.