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'The Justice Cascade': Holding Human Rights Abusers Accountable

'The Justice Cascade': Holding Human Rights Abusers Accountable

WOLA/Duke Human Rights Book Award Winner Kathryn Sikkink to speak at Duke Nov. 2

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Durham, NC - Around the world, former government and security force officials accused of human rights crimes are facing prosecutions in unprecedented numbers.

For scholar Kathryn Sikkink, this is part of what she calls "the justice cascade," a new development in world politics. "Only 30 years ago, it was virtually unheard of, almost unimaginable, for a national or international tribunal to hold state officials criminally accountable for human rights violations," Sikkink said.

Kathyrn Sikkink
Kathryn Sikkink

Sikkink's ground-breaking book, "The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions are Changing World Politics" (W.W. Norton), won the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)-Duke University Human Rights Book Award for 2011. This year's panel of judges called The Justice Cascade "compelling" and "eye-opening," recognizing it for its important contribution to the field of human rights, Latin American studies and accountability.

Sikkink will read from "The Justice Cascade" in a free, public event at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, in the Rare Book Room of Duke s Perkins Library and receive a $1,000 cash award. The Justice Cascade opens with a look at Sikkink's own experience living in Uruguay during its brutal military dictatorship in the 1970s. She explores the political effects when the military officers were held accountable, emphasizing the need to ensure that prosecutions have their intended impact of long-term justice and respect for human rights.

The chair of the WOLA/Duke Book Award judges committee, Leonor Blum, a professor of history and political science at Notre Dame of Maryland University, said Sikkink's work "shows not only the progress made in bringing human rights violators to justice, but also how such progress can impact subsequent governments and even neighboring countries."

Sikkink is a Regents Professor and the McKnight Presidential Chair in political science at the University of Minnesota.  She has a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.  Her publications include "Mixed Signals: U.S. Human Rights Policy and Latin America, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics" (co-authored with Margaret Keck and "The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change" (co-edited with Thomas Risse and Stephen Ropp).

Started in 2008, the WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award is a joint venture of Duke University and WOLA, a leading advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. The award honors the best current, non-fiction book published in English on human rights, democracy, and social justice in contemporary Latin America. The books are evaluated by a panel of expert judges drawn from academia, journalism and public policy circles.

Previous WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award recipients include: Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes, with Jorge Enrique Botero for "Hostage Nation: Colombia's Guerrilla Army and America's Failed War on Drugs" in 2010; Ambassador Heraldo Munoz for "The Dictator's Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet" in 2009; and Francisco Goldman for "The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?" in 2008.

Duke sponsors for the event include the Duke Human Rights Center, Duke's Human Rights Archive, the Office of the Vice Provost for International Studies and the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies.

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