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Prosecuting Heads of State


  • 3 b/w illus. 1 table
  • Page extent: 348 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.46 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521756709)

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$39.99 (P)

Since 1990, 67 former heads of state or government have been legitimately prosecuted for serious human rights or financial crimes. Many of these leaders were brought to trial in reasonably free and fair judicial processes, and some served time in prison as a result. This book explores the reasons for the meteoric rise in trials of senior leaders and the motivations, public dramas, and intrigues that accompanied efforts to bring them to justice. Drawing on an analysis of the 67 cases, the book examines the emergence of regional trends in Europe and Latin America and contains eight case studies of high-profile trials of former government leaders: Augusto Pinochet (Chile), Alberto Fujimori (Peru), Slobodan Milosevic (former Yugoslavia), Charles Taylor (Liberia and Sierra Leone), and Saddam Hussein (Iraq) – studies written by experts who closely followed their cases and their impacts on wider societies. This is the only book that examines the rise in the number of domestic and international trials globally and tells the tales in readable prose and with fascinating details.


1. Introduction; 2. Prosecutions of heads of state in Europe Ellen L. Lutz; 3. Prosecutions of heads of state in Latin America Naomi Roht-Arriaza; 4. The multiple prosecutions of Augusto Pinochet Naomi Roht-Arriaza; 5. A leader takes flight: the indictment of Alberto Fujimori Ronald Gamarra; 6. Charm and punishment: how Joseph Estrada, the Philippines' leading man, became its most famous prisoner Abby Wood; 7. Shifting legitimacy: the trials of Frederick Chiluba Paul Lewis; 8. A justice 'trickle-down': Rwanda's first post-genocide president on trial Lars Waldorf; 9. Justice squandered? The trial of Slobodan Milošević Emir Suljagic; 10. A big man in a small cell: Charles Taylor and the special court for Sierra Leone Abdul Tejan Cole; 11. Political pedagogy, Baghdad style: the Dujail trial of Saddam Hussein Miranda Sissons and Marieke Wierda; 12. Conclusion Ellen L. Lutz and Caitlin Reiger.


“Starting in the mid-1980s, the international human rights movement began focusing on attempts to hold high level officials accountable for atrocities. The results have been dramatic, exceeding what any of those involved in the accountability effort could have expected. As Ellen Lutz and Caitlin Reiger show us in Prosecuting Heads of State, some sixty-seven former heads of state or government have been prosecuted since 1990 for serious human rights or financial crimes. Their book is an essential addition to the literature on human rights with well informed, well written and probingly analytical essays on the most important cases and regional trends. It includes a wealth of information and insight that is unavailable elsewhere.”
--Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Institute

“While high-profile prosecutions of former leaders–from Chile’s Pinochet to Serbia’s Milosevic and Sudan’s al Bashir–by foreign or international courts have periodically made headline news, this book shows that a wider change is under way: No fewer than sixty-seven former leaders have been criminally charged since 1990, most before their own countries’ courts. The contributing authors provide richly textured insights into key case studies, linking up domestic developments with global processes, while the editors round out the volume with an intellectually powerful overview. Prosecuting Heads of State will be an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to understand a remarkable turnabout in state practice.”
--Diane F. Orentlicher, Professor of International Law, Washington College of Law, American University

“Until very recently, mass murdering political and military leaders were untouchable – amnesties and Swiss bank accounts were theirs for the taking. Now, and in increasing numbers, they are escorted to the dock of an International Criminal Court. Are their trials politically pre-judged, or are they getting their just desserts? The authors of this cool and correct study tell us the answer, in the most authoritative account so far of how the age of impunity is ending.”
--Geoffrey Robertson QC, Doughty Street Chambers, London, Former Appeals Judge of the Special Court for Sierra Leone

"Prosecuting Heads of State serves as a timely and invaluable resource, chronicling the development of head-of-state accountability and providing insights that will prove useful in strategizing transitional justice."
Human Rights Brief, Kavita Kapur, Washington College of Law

"[An] impressive resource, distinguishing major trends in the trials and canvassing all sixty-seven prosecutions within the pages of one volume."
International Law and Politics, Caroline Burrell


Ellen L. Lutz, Naomi Roht Arriaza, Ronald Gamarra, Abby Wood, Paul Lewis, Lars Waldorf, Emir Suljagic, Abdul Tejan Cole, Miranda Sissons, Marieke Wierda, Caitlin Reiger

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