Truth commissions

Authored by: Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm

Routledge Handbook of International Criminal Law

Print publication date:  November  2010
Online publication date:  November  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415552035
eBook ISBN: 9780203836897
Adobe ISBN: 9781136866685


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More than two dozen truth commissions have been established over the past three decades as countries seek to uncover details of past human rights abuses. 1 They have been suggested as an antidote for virtually every conflict that has come to an end in recent years. Truth commissions are touted for their ability to give victims voice and to provide official acknowledgment of their suffering. Furthermore, they can provide an authoritative account of a contested period in history and, thereby, help restore society’s moral underpinnings. In addition, they produce recommendations for institutional and policy reform that are designed to prevent future human rights abuses. Ultimately, the investigation hopefully contributes to the longer-term goal of reconciliation. Finally, the truth commission is seen as an ideal means of fulfilling a state’s international legal obligations with respect to the right to know. Although the United Nations and others have sought to develop guidelines for truth commissions, 2 they have taken many different forms.

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