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Karina Ansolabehere

272 Social Sciences


Visiting Professor Karina Ansolabehere is a leading voice in the academic study of human rights and democracy in Latin America.  The Human Rights Program and the Institute for Global Studies are pleased to serve as the academic home for Professor Ansolabehere during her 2012-13 sabbatical year at the University of Minnesota.  During her stay in Minnesota, she will be working on her own research as well as teaching an undergraduate course this semester, offered in Spanish, called "The Politics of Human Rights in Mexico."

Trained in sociology and political science, Ansolabehere specializes in the politics and culture of the judiciary in Mexico and Argentina. Originally from Argentina, she lives in Mexico City with her family and has worked as Academic Secretary and as a political science professor for FLACSO-Mexico (Latin America Faculty of Social Sciences). FLACSO, created in Santiago, Chile in 1957, is a network of 13 institutions situated throughout Latin America and the Caribbean designed to promote teaching and research in the social sciences. FLACSO-Mexico, established in 1975, is one of the largest and most important sites in the FLACSO system; its mission is to generate knowledge to contribute to the solution of national and regional problems.  

In addition to being a professor and researcher, Professor Ansolabehere has been a key organizer of FLACSO-Mexico’s Master’s program in Human Rights and Democracy.  The Master’s program offers a two-year course of study, with periodic on-site sessions enhanced through on-line distance learning.  Various University of Minnesota experts have participated, including Regents Professor Kathryn Sikkink, Barbara Frey, director of the Human Rights Program, and Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, co-director of the Human Rights Center.  The Master’s Program has been so well-received that it has spawned two different specializations, one in human rights protection directed to professional staff of  States Judiciaries and the Federal Judiciary in Mexico, and another in political process and human rights directed to people that work in NGOs and other human rights institutions.

“Despite all institutional efforts, human rights violations in Mexico are a part of everyday life,” Ansolabehere poignantly observes. This trenchant reality underscores the importance of her research and institution building efforts there. Ansolabehere’s research has focused on the ways that institutional design and the cultures of the domestic court systems in Mexico have allowed human rights violations, including the use of coerced confessions, to continue with impunity.  Her major publications include serving as the Editor of the Spanish language version of the Basic Dictionary of Human Rights: The Culture of Rights in the Era of Globalization (2009).

Having lived with the reality of human rights violations in both Argentina and Mexico, the goal of basic human rights is the impulse that drives Ansolabehere’s scholarship and professional service. She works to elucidate and realize the potential that the judiciary possesses in upholding human rights. Professor Ansolabehere writes on specific topics  about the role(s) that the judiciary plays in determining the practice of human rights in Mexico and Argentina such as: the political rights of women, the judiciary’s role in past human rights violations, and the courts’ emergence in the issue of abortion.

Director Frey and Professor Ansolabehere have jointly explored the impacts of the 2008 amendment to Mexico’s constitution that is dramatically reforming the criminal justice system. The amendment required a shift from an inquisitorial, or written procedural, to an oral adversarial procedure with stricter requirements to protect due process. The question that Frey and Ansolabehere continue to ask is whether those reforms are being implemented in a manner that truly protects human rights.

Of particular interest to Frey and Ansolabehere is the use of torture by the state in coercing confessions from suspects. Since 2009, director Frey has conducted interviews in Mexico with experts in law schools, the courts, and the federal public defenders office to discuss the effects of the penal reform. While in Minnesota, Ansolabehere has engaged with various actors from the Twin Cities human rights and legal communities, including judges, public defenders, students, and staff from the Center of Victims of Torture and its New Tactics Project. She observed, “The Minnesota human rights community has developed innovative tools to think about human rights and to put human rights in action.” Director Frey, succinctly summed up the partnership by stating, “Human rights and public security are critical goals for both communities-the United States and Mexico-and we look forward to a continuing dialogue about how to best achieve them.”

Major Publications

“When independence did not guarantee justice: Judiciary and past hunan rights violations in Mexico” [Cuando la independencia no garantiza la justicia: el poder judicial ante los crímenes del pasado en México] (Based on a paper presented at the XIX LASA Congress, Toronto, In Progress).

Diccionario Básico de Derechos Humanos. Cultura de los Derechos en la Era de la Globalización [Basic Human Rights Dictionary: The Rights Culture in the Era of Globalization] (Co-Editor, Spanish edition). (Mexico: FLASCO, 2009).

Género y Derechos Políticos. La protección jurisdiccional de los derechos politico electorales de las mujeres en México [Gender and Political Rights: Judicial Protection of Electoral and Political Rights of Women in Mexico] (Editor, with Daniela Cerva). (México: Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judical de la Federación, 2009).

La política desde le justicia. Cortes Supremas, gobierno y democracia en Argentina y México [Politics from Justice: Supreme Courts, Government, and Democracy in Argentina and Mexico]. (México: FLASCO-Fontamara, 2007).      

“Cultura Legal” [Legal Culture]. (Eunomía. Revista sobre cultura del la legalidad, No. 1, Madrid). Available at:

Courses Taught

  • State, Democracy, and Human Rights
  • Sociology of Law
  • Rule of Law in Latin American Democracies
  • Public Choice and Neo-institutionalism
  • Governance in the Maze of Politics
  • Economy for Social Sciences

Written by Nathan Ratner.