Moral Victories

Moral Victories

How Activists Provoke Multilateral Action
Susan Burgerman, Susan D. Burgerman

In the 1980s, security forces and paramilitary organizations killed, abducted, or tortured an estimated 80,000 Salvadoran citizens. During this period, the government of Guatemala was responsible for the death or disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians, many of them indigenous peasants. But such abuses were curtailed when peace talks, largely motivated by international human rights activism, led to interventions by United Nations observers who raised the degree of respect for human rights within each nation. These two cases are emblematic of many more in recent world events. Susan Burgerman here explains how international pressure can be effective in changing oppressive state behavior. Moral Victories includes a detailed comparative study of human rights abuses in El Salvador and Guatemala from 1980 to 1996, as well as a brief, focused examination of the situation in Cambodia from 1975 to 1992.Moral Victories lays out the mechanisms by which the United Nations and transnational human rights activists have intervened in civil wars and successfully linked international peace and security with the promotion of human rights. The meaning of state sovereignty, defense of which had previously limited governments to unenforceable statements of opprobrium against violator nations, has changed over the past two decades to allow for more aggressive action in support of international moral standards. As a result, human rights have gained increasing importance in the arena of world politics.While researching this book in Guatemala and El Salvador, Burgerman interviewed government officials, negotiators, analysts, and human rights workers, and accompanied UN observer teams in their travels through rainforests and mountainous terrain.