WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
23 Sep 2011 | | News

“The Justice Cascade” Wins WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and Duke University are proud to announce Kathryn Sikkink’s new book The Justice Cascade: How Human Rights Prosecutions Are Changing World Politics (Norton, 2011) as the winner of the 2011 WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award.

Judges for this year’s competition called the work “compelling” and “eye-opening,” recognizing it for making an important contribution to the field of human rights and accountability. The award will be presented later this fall.

The Justice Cascade opens with a look at the author’s own experience living in Uruguay during the brutal military dictatorship of the 1970s, when few could imagine the government ever being held accountable for its crimes. Weaving together personal experience, quantitative analysis, and case studies from Latin America, Europe, and Africa, the author examines the development of the practice—and the very idea—of prosecuting state officials for human rights violations.

In just the last three decades, a series of highly-publicized human rights trials have started holding state leaders criminally responsible for their actions. Sikkink explores the political effects of this change in accountability, emphasizing the need to ensure that prosecutions have their intended impact of long-term justice and respect for human rights.

According to Leonor Blum, the chair of this year’s award judging panel and a professor of history and political science at Notre Dame of Maryland University, the book “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.”

Award judge Holly Ackerman praised Sikkink for her application of comparative political theory and detailed case studies, while keeping the book inviting and understandable. Roger Atwood called it “an important book that will help the reading public understand an issue that we see every day in the news.”

Sikkink is a Regents Professor and the McKnight Presidential Chair of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. On November 2, she will give a reading of The Justice Cascade in the Rare Book Room of Duke University’s Perkins Library and be presented with a $1,000 cash award. The event is open to the public. Later in the fall, she will appear in Washington, DC for a panel discussion on human rights tribunals and justice. A group of experts from WOLA also plan to join Sikkink for a trip to the Southern Cone focused on issues of justice and the themes of her book.

Started in 2008, the WOLA-Duke Human Rights Book Award is a joint venture of Duke University and WOLA. 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 in 2010; Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz 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.