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13-04-19 | Truth & Reconciliation Commissions

Team presentation for Int'l Human Rights Law re: Truth & Reconciliation Comissions

Melanie Finke

on 20 April 2013

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Transcript of 13-04-19 | Truth & Reconciliation Commissions

Melanie Finke, Jenna Haywood and Garry Hung Truth & Reconcilation
Commissions Commission of
Truth & Reconciliation
in South Africa Dates of Operation:

Years of Apartheid

Apartheid = policy implemented by National Party to systematically violate the rights of the Afrikaans "This Constitution provides a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future rounded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex." Committee
on Amnesty Comprised of 17 Commissioners (9 men, 8 women)
Chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Supported by 300 Staff Members
Divided into Three Committees Commission of Truth & Reconciliation in South Africa This committee aims to facilitate and promote the granting of amnesty in respect of acts associated with political objectives and the related facts.
Chamber Matters: Dealing with certain applications in the absence of the applicant and without holding a public hearing. Committee on Human
Rights Violations Exercising the powers of investigation granted by the Commission.
Establishing investigating units to facilitate inquiries into gross violations of human rights, including violations which were part of a systematic pattern of abuse.
Dealing with cases of the abductions, disappearances and missing persons which cannot be resolved through the Amnesty Committee hearings. Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation
of Victims Making recommendations including the interim measures of reparation to victims and forming institutions that facilitate a stable and fair society to prevent the human rights violations
The committee also wrote reports of witness for those who were granted the reparations. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up by parliament and was endorsed by opposition leader Nelson Mandela and other prominent South African figures.

Its purpose was to investigate gross human rights violations during the apartheid era, including abductions, killings and torture. Measuring the Value of Truth Commissions How much more "truth" is known at the end of the process. In other words, have events that were clouded in secrecy become better known and understood? Have important aspects of individual and institutional responsibility been clarified?
Was the truth-telling institution able to break the codes of silence and secrecy of government files through legal, administrative, and political means?
Was it possible for victims and civil society organizations to contribute to the clarification of events by presenting their cases? Were the victims and their families heard and regarded and respected in their dignity as victims?
Did the discovery of new facts lead to prosecutions so as to break the cycle of impunity for major human rights crimes? Truth Commissions A body set up to investigate a past history of human rights violations in a particular country. Pros Cons 33 12 Commissions of Inquiry & since 1974 Source: United States Institute of Peace’s Truth Commissions Digital Collection What is a Truth Commission? Focuses on the past vs. ongoing abuses
Investigates a pattern of abuse over a set period of time vs. a specific event (parameters established by mandate)
Serves as a temporary body, usually operating over a period of 6 months to 2 years, completes work with submission of report
Is officially sanctioned, authorized or empowered by the country's government Key Characteristics: Source: Hayner, P. B. (1994). Fifteen Truth Commissions--1974 to 1994: A Comparative Study. Human Rights Quarterly, (4), 597. Form of Transitional Justice

Set of judicial and non-judicial measures implemented by countries to redress the legacies of massive human rights abuses
Include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs and various kinds of institutional reforms. Source: International Center for Transitional Justice Investigative Steps of
Truth Commissions

Protect evidence
Compile archives
Interviewing victims and key political actors
Opening and publishing state information
Producing reports and recommendations Source: International Center for Transitional Justice What role does
play in forgiveness and justice? Source: United States Institute of Peace Source: United States Institute of Peace Source: Steiner, H. J. & Alston, P. (2000). International human rights in context: Laws, politics, morals. Oxford, UK: Oxford University. Source: United States Institute of Peace Source: South African Government Information. (2003) Truth and reconciliation commission of South Africa report. Source: South African Government Information. (2003) Truth and reconciliation commission of South Africa report. Source: South African Government Information. (2003) Truth and reconciliation commission of South Africa report. No power to prosecute or punish offenders
No power to implement reforms
Amnesty (when granted) denies justice for victims
Success dependent on state support, staffing, resources, etc.
May be used as means to discredit old regime and legitimize new governments Facilitates communal healing & transition to peace
Documents history of abuses & officially acknowledges crimes
Helps victims find closure & obtain redress (restorative justice)
Denies possibility of future rewriting of history
May instigate future reparations, reforms and prosecutions Source: Mendez, J. J., & Mariezcurrena, J. J. (2003). Unspeakable Truths: Facing the Challenge of Truth Commissions, by Priscilla B. Hayner. Human Rights Quarterly, 25237-256. Class Exercise Should amnesty be granted to perpetrators of mass violence? When, if at all?
What are the costs of granting amnesty? What are the costs of holding perpetrators accountable?
Who pays for "justice"?
Is true justice possible? If it is, what does it look like?
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