Truth and
reconciliation
in Latin America


By Jonathan C. Hamilton



We live in a multipolar world, where development and investment alike require reliable mechanisms for conflict resolution—to confront past problems and neutrally resolve future disputes.

Latin America is a vibrant participant in the multipolar world. In the two decades since a wave of economic and policy changes swept the region, most Latin American countries have embraced and even pioneered new international dispute mechanisms. It is largely an era of advocates and tribunals, focused on the future.

At the same time, most Latin American countries have created systems for confronting the past, with enhanced transparency and examination of alleged prior abuses. The common mandate of these commissions: truth and reconciliation.

The systems used to address conflict and resolve controversies, both internally and internationally, drive development, investment, stability, security and peace.

Collaborating with the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, White & Case issued a report entitled “Latin American Truth and Reconciliation,” a comparative study of truth and reconciliation processes in five Latin American countries. The project originated to provide analysis relevant to the Brazilian National Truth Commission established to investigate human rights issues related to the 1964 – 1985 military regime in Brazil. Through a comparative approach, a team of lawyers from seven White & Case offices in the Americas and Europe found that the work of Latin American commissions provides lessons, and cautionary tales, for countries grappling with similar issues.

The report focuses on the methodologies and findings of truth commissions in five key areas:


The report focused on Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala and Peru. In each country, albeit in distinct ways and with differing outcomes and degrees of acceptance, the commissions recommended reparations for the victims, as well as improvements in the rule of law to strengthen human rights as a foundation for economic and social progress.

The Argentina Commission, for instance, issued proposals to reform the legal framework in recognition of human rights and adherence to human rights norms. The Chile Commission recommended legal and institutional measures, including the harmonization of national laws with international human rights standards, and advocated for the creation of public law foundations.

In Colombia, in addition to proposed judicial, administrative, economic and social changes, the Commission’s findings became the basis for a new Victims Law, including the possibility of land reclamation. Land redistribution was also a focus of Guatemala’s Commission, which proposed measures to strengthen the democratic process.

Finally, in Peru, a series of institutional reforms were presented to address social and economic consequences of conflict, further strengthening the country’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

The report underscores how truth and reconciliation form a part of the Latin American conflict resolution system that can serve to strengthen the rule of law in today’s multipolar world.

DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Innovative solution for economic crisis cases
International dispute systems are critical to investment, development and the rule of law in Latin America. A key example was the first case before the World Bank arising out of the global economic crisis. Spanish infrastructure companies filed contract and treaty cases against the Republic of Peru. Advised by White & Case, Peru won the first case, diminished the second and filed a pioneering third case that was the first-ever registered by a Latin American state at the World Bank.

White & Case resolved the entire trio of cases through a unique Acuerdo Integral approved by the Peruvian Council of Ministers. Peru turned a risk of more than US$125 million into a recovery of US$40 million, and all parties put the disputes behind them in a respectful manner.

Crises can be opportunities. Innovative solutions like this mark a path for resolving future conflicts through dispute mechanisms, complex negotiations and crisis management.

Jonathan C. Hamilton