PROSECUTING HEADS OF STATE, by Ellen L. Lutz and Caitlin Reiger (eds). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 352pp. Hardback.$99.99/£55.00. ISBN: 9780521491099. Paperback.$30.99/£16.99. ISBN: 9780521756709. eBook format.$24.00. ISBN: 9780511530296.
Reviewed by Moira K. Lynch, Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota. Email: lynch218 [at] umn.edu
PROSECUTING HEADS OF STATE aims to understand the increased number of criminal charges brought against heads of state or government since 1990. At the start of the book, the editors ask,“Is this a global phenomenon, or one of selective application?”(p.2) The chapters are organized first by region, charting prosecution trends in Europe and Latin America, followed by individual discussions of leaders’ prosecutions. The book closes with an examination of themes that link the cases together. While hundreds of military and government officials have been indicted for criminal activities, the book limits its attention to heads of state or government. These parameters were purposely chosen to ensure that the analysis of cases was limited to those “for which there was official intent to prosecute the accused”(p.3). The focus of the book is unique in that the charges discussed include both human rights abuse and corruption. An examination of both types of charges is useful in illustrating the important ways in which these crimes overlap and how the various movements against corruption and human rights violations have, in fact, coincided. One of the glaring findings of the book, noted by the editors in the introduction, and evidenced in the case studies, is that despite the promising surge in state leaders’ indictments, the actual time served by these individuals is, in the end, quite minimal. Out of ninety-nine indictments against sixty-seven heads of state or government, only seventeen served some form of sentence (p.14). One of the strengths of the book lies in the authors’ rich discussion of the key factors that can intervene to limit justice-seeking efforts.