Can we use law to hold the past to account?
On balance, it is my view that the assumption underlying the question before us, namely that we have to be accountable to the past is the right assumption. Firstly, to ignore the past is to perpetuate victim-hood. Secondly, there are many examples of countries in transition who have strengthened their commitment to the rule of law and to the democratic culture by making a concerted effort to be accountable to the past. Thirdly, there are many other countries who have been haunted by their own past. Contemporary examples are Switzerland and the Swiss banks in relation to their own culpability towards the Holocaust, and Japan in relation to the so-called Acomfort woman@. Further, the furor surrounding the Pinochet extradition has had an enormous impact on modern Chile, but the impact has been felt far beyond that country and there must a number of present and former dictators who are decidedly uncomfortable at this turn of the events. There is also the challenge to the United States of America itself in relation to the residue of denial and contradictions flowing from the bitter experience of slavery which still has considerable impact on relationships within that country today. For the sake of justice, therefore, and for stability and the restoration of dignity to victims there must be accountability for the past. An added benefit would be that such accountability could deter further dictators.