Even as protests against authoritarian leaders continue across much of the Arab world, Tunisia and Egypt are already preparing to bring their former dictators to justice. The Tunisian justice minister, Lazhar Karoui Chebbi, is reportedly preparing as many as 44 charges -- including conspiring against the state, drug use and trafficking, and voluntary manslaughter -- against Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country in January, and his family. Last week, Egyptian prosecutors detained Hosni Mubarak and several family members and former government officials on charges of corruption. As Tunisia and Egypt consider how far to go with arrests and trials, Foreign Affairs is pleased to bring you select articles from our archives that grapple with how post-authoritarian nations have dealt with deposed regimes in the past, and how they should do so in the future.
"Overcoming the Legacies of Dictatorship." By Tina Rosenberg. Foreign Affairs 74, no. 3 (1995): 134-52.
In the 1980s and 1990s, countries in Latin America and eastern Europe were wrestling with democratic transitions similar to Tunisia's and Egypt's today. In this 1995 essay, Tina Rosenberg writes that "one of the first questions a newly democratic nation must face is that of what to do with its old dictators . . . whether and how to investigate tyranny's legacy, try its leaders, and purge its bureaucrats." Far from an obvious choice, the decision of who to target usually depends on the type of dictatorial system, the crimes it committed, and the level of citizen participation in the regime. Rosenberg warns, however, that broad truth commissions, trials of top leaders, and purges of regime loyalists are all important pieces of overcoming dictatorship and that not going far enough crosses the line into new injustice.
"Truth and Consequences." By Jonathan D. Tepperman. Foreign Affairs 81, no. 2 (2002): 128-45.
In recent decades, truth commissions have become a popular way for "newly minted leaders to show their democratic bona fides and curry favor with the international community," Jonathan Tepperman writes in his 2002 essay. Critics of truth commissions claim that they fail
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