Truth Commissions

The Accra Peace Agreement provides for the establishment of a Peace and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia, and President Bryant was recently presented with draft legislation which would set it up. T. Michael Johnny. Truth Commission Wants Cases Heard From 1979, Presents Draft Act to Govt, The News (Monrovia), August 17, 2004.

Perhaps the most famous of such commissions is the one which met in South Africa, but there have been a number of others, including those held in Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, and East Timor. For a fuller listing of past and present commissions, see the US Institute for Peace's List, last visited 8/28/04. For a discussion of the role these commission play, see Heather S. McCue, The Truth About Truth Commissions, March 1996, last visited 8/28/04.

Is the establishment of such a commission enough, or should there also be a special court prosecuting the war crimes which were perpetrated during the conflict? A good overview of the issues is provided by Neil J. Kritz, War Crimes and Truth Commissions: Some Thoughts on Accountability Mechanisms for Mass Violations of Human Rights, originally presented at a USAID Conference, Promoting Democracy, Human Rights, and Reintegration in Post-conflict Societies, October 30-31, 1997

Just days after his appointment, President Bryant took the position that "a war crimes tribunal would do more harm then good in Liberia at this time." Abdoulaye W. Dukulé , A War Crimes Tribunal In Liberia: Archbishop Francis and Chairman Bryant's positions, The Perspective, March 9, 2004, last visited August 28, 2004. For a position favoring a truth commission over a war crimes tribunal, written before the peace accord, see Samuel Wonwi Thompson ,War Crimes Tribunal Or Truth & Reconciliation Commission?, The Perspective, April 3, 2001, last visited August 28, 2004.

On a related note, former Liberian President Charles Taylor, now in exile in Nigeria, is attempting to resist prosecution before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (, which issued an indictment ( ) against him. The related conflict in Sierra Leone has spawned both a special criminal court ( and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Numerous documents, reports, and articles on the commission are available at The final report of the Commission requests reparation for the victims, and is online at Scroll to the bottom of the page for links to text of the report.

For several reports on the commission, including one on it relationship to the special criminal court, see the International Center for Transitional Justice The relationship between the court and the commission is also explored by an April 2002 Human Rights Watch's Report (

For an excellent panel discussion on truth commissions, see Truth Commissions:

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  • South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission: a symposium. 1999. University of Toronto Law Journal 49, no. 3:311-445.
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  • Weston, Rose,student author. 2001. Facing the past, facing the future: applying the truth commission model to the historic treatment of Native Americans in the United States. Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law 18, no. 3:1017-1058.
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