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Francesca Lessa specialises in human rights in Latin America, focusing on accountability for past and present instances of human rights violations and the politics behind these processes, which encompass state, regional, and international actors as well as civil society activists.
Francesca has published extensively on these topics, and others relating to impunity and memory in Latin America, in top journals including Human Rights Quarterly, The Journal of Latin American Studies, The International Journal of Transitional Justice, and The Journal of Human Rights Practice.
Her first book, Memory and Transitional Justice in Argentina and Uruguay: Against Impunity was published in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Latin American Studies Association “Best Recent History and Memory Book Contest.” Her second book, The Condor Trials: Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America was released by Yale University Press in 2022. The book was the unanimous winner of the 2023 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America and received an honourable mention by the 2022 Bryce Wood Book Award Committee of the Latin American Studies Association.
Francesca has a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and joined the University of Oxford as a Postdoctoral Researcher in 2011 at the Latin American Centre. Between 2016 and 2020, she was the recipient of the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship of the European Commission, to conduct a project on transnational state repression in 1970s South America and contemporary attempts to achieve justice for these cross-border atrocities.
Her research on this topic has been pointed out as one of the main research projects with a high impact within the Social Sciences: the project reached the final shortlist of the Vice Chancellor’s 2020 Innovation Awards and now features as an impact case study on the University webpage. Numerous international news outlets, including The Guardian, The New York Times, The BBC and BBC Brasil, as well as newspapers and radios in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Uruguay and the US have interviewed Francesca about her research.
Francesca frequently collaborates with regional and international organisations and NGOs, having delivered presentations to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, The Center for Justice and International Law, The Washington Office on Latin America, and she is the Honorary President of the Observatorio Luz Ibarburu (Uruguay), a network of human rights NGOs devoted to the fight against impunity in that country.
Francesca's research impact was recently recognised in the O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2021. Her project "Operation Condor" was highly commended for improving routes to justice for victims of transnational human rights violations in South America.