In this article, Professor Elizabeth Iglesias takes up the challenge of overcoming impunity for atrocity crimes as a problem of structural corruption. Beginning with the 2013 trial and conviction of Guatemalan leader Efrain Rios Montt for crimes against humanity and genocide in the courts of his own country, the article turns to the scandal surrounding United States' President Donald Trump's repeated threats to fire the special counsel investigating allegations that he and his campaign colluded with foreign nationals to steal the 2016 presidential election and the scandal surrounding the nomination and confirmation of Gina Haspel as the first woman to direct the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Understanding the structural homologies that create the conditions of possibility for impunity across these very different and seemingly unrelated contexts reveals the critical importance of historical memory and legal theory in the struggle against impunity. Whenever impunity takes hold, it is never just a matter of simple quid pro quo corruption. On the contrary, impunity threatens the rule of law and the stability of republican government precisely because it both constitutes, and depends upon, a corruption of law and legal institutions. Recognizing this kind of corruption requires historical memory. Understanding it requires legal theory.
Elizabeth M. Iglesias, When Impunity and Corruption Embrace: How the Past Becomes the Future in the Struggle Against Torture and Genocide, 25 U.C. Davis J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 1 (2018).