By: Paige Calabrese

When a country is plagued with civil war, dictatorship, or extreme internal unrest, governments can become pressured to take aggressive measures to maintain order and establish power, including abducting citizens believed to be threats to their power. This phenomenon of government-orchestrated civilian abductions is known as “enforced disappearance,” and it leaves damage that endures long after the conflict or dictatorship has come to an end. While many countries have histories checkered with this practice, two countries stand out because of the remedial provisions they have enacted in their transitions to democracy: Spain and Argentina. Spain is often criticized for not taking effective remedial action, but Argentina is frequently praised for its aggressive prosecution of former government officials involved in perpetrating civilian abductions. Transitional justice policies, such as prosecution and reparations, are used to address violations committed by former regimes and provide victims and their families with compensation and closure so that the country can move forward. Through an analysis and comparison of Spain and Argentina’s transitional justice methods employed to address enforced disappearances, each country can learn from the other and improve their approaches to more effectively support victims and hold the government accountable.

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