Many Democracies Have Prosecuted Ex-Leaders. The Politics Can Be Tough.

April 01, 2023

In the past two decades, several dozen nations have prosecuted a former head of government or head of state. The list of those criminally charged also includes former democratically elected leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa and Taiwan. That reaction is likely to be more severe, political scientists say, in a country where politics are highly polarized and partisan. It is in democracies, where public opinion matters more and there is at least some expectation of impartial justice, that a prosecutor’s job is most delicate. But those challenges, as difficult as they are, cannot dissuade the justice system from taking on legitimate cases against political leaders, he and other experts said.