The Condor Trials


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Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America

Francesca Lessa

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Stories of transnational terror and justice illuminate the past and present of South America’s struggles for human rights

Through the voices of survivors and witnesses, human rights activists, judicial actors, journalists, and historians, Francesca Lessa unravels the secrets of transnational repression masterminded by South American dictators between 1969 and 1981. Under Operation Condor, their violent and oppressive regimes kidnapped, tortured, and murdered hundreds of exiles, or forcibly returned them to the countries from which they had fled. South America became a zone of terror for those who were targeted, and of impunity for those who perpetuated the violence. Lessa shows how networks of justice seekers gradually materialized and effectively transcended national borders to achieve justice for the victims of these horrors. Based on extensive fieldwork, archival research, trial ethnography, and over one-hundred interviews, The Condor Trials explores South America’s past and present and sheds light on ongoing struggles for justice as its societies come to terms with the unparalleled atrocities of their not-so-distant pasts.

Francesca Lessa is a lecturer in Latin American studies and development University of Oxford. She is also the author of Memory and Transitional Justice in Argentina and Uruguay and the honorary president of the Observatorio Luz Ibarburu (Uruguay).

The Condor Trials helps us understand why human rights activists from Latin American countries see it as their duty to continue to fight for truth, memory, and justice for past events.”— Lucía Cholakian Herrera, North American Congress of Latin America

“Lessa’s exploration of transnational repression in 1970s’ South America could not be more current in these days of resurgent authoritarianism. Her analysis of the Condor period is groundbreaking and documents both the human rights crimes and the efforts of international ‘justice seekers’ to breach— eventually-- the dictatorships’ impunity.”—John Dinges, author of Hunting Enemies Abroad

“There is no other book that combines a decade of research on Operation Condor and transnational repression by the South American military regimes with synthesis of the literature on efforts to achieve accountability for human rights violations and analysis of the prosecutions in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Italy.”—Brian Loveman, San Diego University

“This gripping account of Operation Condor breaks important new ground in our understanding of complex justice processes for grave human rights violations. Lessa's analysis of ‘justice seekers’ highlights the central role of victims in transitional and transnational justice processes. Most importantly, she centers the deeply moving stories of the victims of Operation Condor, whose lives were forever altered by transnational state terror.”— Jo-Marie Burt, George Mason University

Shortlisted for the Juan Méndez book award, sponsored by the Duke Human Rights Center at FHI
ISBN: 9780300254099
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
392 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
7 b/w illus.