Valeria Vázquez Guevara
University of Melbourne Law School
This paper examines how the literary trope of ‘evil’ and ‘hell’ have been used in the final report of Argentina’s 1983 truth commission, a memoir and legal-political history book by Carlos Nino (Argentine jurist and intellectual designer of thetruth commission and the 1984 Junta Trials), and an essay by Ronald Dworkin (the prominent US jurist and friend of Nino) revisiting and analysing Argentina’s transition to democracy. The analysis shows how these three texts work as a form of history-writing that creates a particular account of Argentina’s dictatorial past, in a way that is deeply informed by the Occidental modernist binaries of ‘hell/heaven’ and ‘evil/good’. These binaries are not expressly stated in the texts, but rather are embedded in their accounts of the past, which depict the dictatorship as ‘hell’ and its laws as ‘evil’, and in doing so, present democracy as ‘heaven’ and modern Occidental international law as ‘good’. Finally, the paper shows how the binaries ‘hell/heaven’ and ‘evil/good’ contributed to capturing the imagination of global human rights promoters, who reimagined the Argentinian truth commission as a global model truth commission. As this paper shows, the truth commission’s report and the works of Nino and Dworkin created public and collective images of those binaries, which continue today in a way that makes the work of the truth commission appear to be fundamental for the state and society to publicly atone and redeem its ‘evil’ dictatorial past, without addressing protracted forms of state-violence.
Valeria is a PhD candidate at Melbourne Law School and a member of the Institute for International Law and the Humanities. Her research is concerned with how law, through its particular forms, ‘works’ after violent conflict, focusing on the ways in which it shapes ‘post-conflict’ societies, especially in the global South. These research interests build on Valeria’s experiences in the non-profit sector in Spain, the Basque Country, El Salvador, and South Africa. Valeria’s research is informed by the scholarship in the tradition of ‘law and the humanities’, with particular focus on jurisdictional thinking, legal aesthetics, critical legal theory and the theories and histories of international law. She holds an M.A. in Peace Studies (Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, USA), an M.A. in Sociology of Law (International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Spain), and an LL.B. (University of Granada’s Faculty of Law, Spain).