Explaining Prolonged Silences in Transitional Justice: The Disappeared in Cyprus and Spain

Iosif Kovras

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    Abstract

    The article examines why some postconflict societies defer the recovery of those who forcibly disappeared as a result of political violence, even after a fully fledged democratic regime is consolidated. The prolonged silences in Cyprus and Spain contradict the experience of other countries such as Bosnia, Guatemala, and South Africa, where truth recovery for disappeared or missing persons was a central element of the transition to peace and democracy. Exhumations of mass graves containing the victims from the two periods of violence in Cyprus (1963–1974) and the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) was delayed up until the early 2000s. Cyprus and Spain are well suited to explain both prolonged silences in transitional justice and the puzzling decision to become belated truth seekers. The article shows that in negotiated transitions, a subtle elite agreement links the non-instrumental use of the past with the imminent needs for political stability and nascent democratization. As time passes, selective silence becomes an entrenched feature of the political discourse and democratic institutions, acquiring a hegemonic status and prolonging the silencing of violence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)730-756
    Number of pages27
    JournalComparative Political Studies
    Volume46
    Issue number6
    Early online date05 Nov 2012
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

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