Ms. Andrea Gualde, Senior Adviser for Latin American Programs at the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, delivered the keynote address at a recent academic conference hosted by Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. The event, entitled “Emerging Expertise: Holding Accountability Accountable,” was held on April 6-9 and explored the concept of accountability as a theoretical concept, methodological concern, moral principle, legal demand, and form of ethical engagement from a variety of perspectives, with contributions from a diverse group of academics and practitioners.
Ms. Gualde, who teaches as a Professor at Torcuato Di Tella University in Buenos Aires, discussed the character, process, and legacy of Argentina’s legal response to the atrocities carried out during the military dictatorship that held power between 1976 and 1982. Having grown up during the zenith of the dictatorship’s brutal campaign against its citizens and attended law school during the initial years of Argentina’s democratic state and the infamous 1985 Trial of the Juntas, Ms. Gualde illustrated the experiences and the sentiments of her generation, explaining:
I belong to the generation who witnessed, with hope and joy, the reestablishment of democracy. At the same time, we experienced horror when we discovered the details of the extermination plan that was carried out by the dictatorship. We also experienced a constant fear over our future, due to threats posed to the new and fragile democracy.
Having served as National Director of Legal Affairs within the Argentine Ministry of Justice’s Secretariat of Human Rights, Ms. Gualde discussed the work that her office embarked upon beginning in 2005, the year that the possibility of reopening legal proceedings against officials of the dictatorial regime was announced. During her tenure at the Secretariat, the government designed and implemented a program of reparations sensitive to the ongoing development of measures for truth, memory, and justice.
Speaking about the important relationship between the legal proceedings of the past, those that are still ongoing, and those still to be held, Ms. Gualde described a “dialogue between past and future” in which the Trial of the Juntas allowed for the establishment of essential truths that permitted and encouraged Argentine society to better understand the periods of state terrorism and confront this past. She remarked:
I have no doubt about the pedagogical and didactic value of the trials in Argentina towards the construction of a new social contract that generates antibodies against institutional violence and defends democracy and the Rule of Law.
Also speaking at the conference was Dr. Tibi Galis, the Executive Director of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and an alumnus of Clark University’s Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Dr. Galis’ remarks focused on the work of the Auschwitz Institute, giving an overview of the organization’s initiatives including its regional programs in Latin America, Africa, and the United States, as well as the annual Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar for the Prevention of Genocide.