Transitional Justice 'From Within': Police, Forensic and Legal Actors Searching for Chile's Disappeared

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This article offers an empirically grounded, practitioner-focused analysis of the present-day search for Chile’s dictatorship-era disappeared. It treats this search as a transitional justice process within which rights and duties around truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-repetition are explicitly or implicitly performed and (re)negotiated by, inter alia, state agents. Drawing on close observation of, and ongoing engagement with, the police, forensic, and legal actors who are involved in this search day to day, it provides insights into how these state actors understand their task, and manage related challenges and professional dilemmas. These include divergence in what is meant, and sought, when the terms ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ are used; the effect of generational replacement; and the necessary limits of victim-centredness within a criminal justice frame. Finally, the paper argues for greater attention to this type of closely observed, supply-side analysis of how, and by whom, states’ transitional justice duties are actually carried out. This is important, not least because such routinisation of transitional justice functions provides learning opportunities for the field, exposing incompatibilities, gaps or contradictions in or between core transitional justice tenets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-39
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Human Rights Practice
Issue number1
Early online date28 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 May 2018


  • Chile
  • Disappearance
  • Disappeared
  • Forensic
  • Police
  • Transitional Justice
  • Latin America


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