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 http://www.usip.org/truth.html#tc, 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 http://www.dec.org/pdf_docs/pnaby177.pdf, 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 http://www.dec.org/pdf_docs/PNACD090.pdf.

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 http://www.theperspective.org/2004/mar/bryant_francispositions.html, 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 http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/liberia/court/010403.htm, 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 (http://www.sc-sl.org), which issued an indictment (http://www.sc-sl.org/taylor.html ) against him. The related conflict in Sierra Leone has spawned both a special criminal court (http://www.sc-sl.org/) and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Numerous documents, reports, and articles on the commission are available at http://www.sierra-leone.org/trc-documents.html. The final report of the Commission requests reparation for the victims, and is online at http://www.iss.co.za/AF/profiles/SieraLeone/research.htm. 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 http://www.ictj.org/en/where/region1/141.html. The relationship between the court and the commission is also explored by an April 2002 Human Rights Watch's Report (http://www.hrw.org/press/2002/04/sierraleoneTRC0418.htm)

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

  • Amstutz, Mark R. 2004. The healing of nations: the promise and limits of political forgiveness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Bronkhorst, Daan, Amnesty International, and Deutsche Section. 1995. Truth and reconciliation: obstacles and opportunities for human rights. Amsterdam: Amnesty International, Dutch Section.
  • Forsberg, Tuomas, et al. 1998. The role of truth commissions in conflict resolution and human rights promotion: Chile, South Africa and Guatemala : research report for the Department for International Development Cooperation, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Helsinki: Ulkopoliittinen Instituutti (UPI).
  • Harvard Law School, Human Rights Program, and World Peace Foundation. 1997. Truth commissions: a comparative assessment: an interdisciplinary discussion held at Harvard Law School in May 1996. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law School Human Rights Program.
  • Hayner, Priscilla B. 2002. Unspeakable truths: facing the challenge of truth commissions. New York: Routledge.
  • Humphrey, Michael. 2002. The politics of atrocity and reconciliation: from terror to trauma. London;; New York: Routledge.
  • Phelps, Teresa G. 2004. Shattered voices: language, violence, and the work of truth commissions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Rotberg, Robert I., and Thompson, Dennis F. 2000. Truth v. justice: the morality of truth commissions. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
  • Springer, Natalia M. 2001. Setting up a truth commission in the middle of the conflict: a case study of Colombia. Leuven: Law and Society Institute, Faculty of Law, K.U. Leuven.
  • Sriram, Chandra L. 2004. Confronting past human rights violations: justice vs. peace in times of transition.1st ed. New York: Frank Cass.

Articles

  • South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission: a symposium. 1999. University of Toronto Law Journal 49, no. 3:311-445.
  • Allan, Alfr, and Marietjie M. Allan. 2000. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a therapeutic tool. Behavioral sciences & the law 18, no. 4:459-477.
  • Allen, Jonathan. 1999. Balancing justice and social unity: political theory and the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission. University of Toronto Law Journal 49, no. 3:315-353.
  • Andrews, Penny. 2000. A grand exercise in forgiveness, or justice held hostage to truth? South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Melbourne University Law Review 24, no. 1:236-247.
  • Asmal, Kader. 2000. International law and practice: dealing with the past in the South African experience. American Society of International Law Proceedings 94, 1-10.
  • Asmal, Kader. 2000. Truth, reconciliation and justice: the South African experience in perspective. The Modern Law Review 63, no. 1:1-24.
  • Bhargava, Anurima,student author. 2002. Defining political crimes: a case study of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Columbia law review 102, no. 5:1304-1339.
  • Bradley, Evelyn. 1998. In search for justice--a Truth in Reconciliation Commission for Rwanda. Journal of International Law and Practice 7, no. 2:129-158.
  • Braun, Susanna,student author. 2002. Forgiveness, South Africa's Truth Commission, and Military Trials: America's Options in Dealing with Crimes against Humanity in Light of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001. Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy 23, no. 2:493-521.
  • Brown, Cynthia. '96. Report of the Chilean National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation (book review). American Journal of International Law 90, 182-183.
  • Buergenthal, Thomas. '94. The United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 27, 497-544.
  • Chapman, Audrey R., and Patrick Ball. 2001. The truth of truth commissions: comparative lessons from Haiti, South Africa, and Guatemala. Human Rights Quarterly 23, no. 1:1-43.
  • Cavanaugh, Karen,student author. '97. Emerging South Africa: human rights responses in the post-apartheid era. Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law 5, 291-333.
  • Dyzenhaus, David. 1999. Debating South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. University of Toronto Law Journal 49, no. 3:311-314.
  • Eisnaugle, Carrie J. Niebur,student author. 2003. An International "Truth Commission": Utilizing Restorative Justice as an Alternative to Retribution. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 36, no. 1:209-241.
  • Evenson, Elizabeth M.,student author. 2004. Truth and Justice in Sierra Leone: Coordination Between Commission and Court. Columbia Law Review 104, no. 3:730-767.
  • Galvin, Richard J. 2003. The Case for a Japanese Truth Commission Covering World War II Era Japanese War Crimes. Tulane Journal of International and Comparative Law 11, 59-115.
  • Garkawe, Sam. 2003. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission: a suitable model to enhance the role and rights of the victims of gross violations of human rights? Melbourne University Law Review 27, no. 2:334-380.
  • Geula, Marianne T.,student author. 2000. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an alternate means of addressing transitional government conflicts in a divided society. Boston University International Law Journal 18, no. 1:57-84.
  • Goldstone, Richard. 1996. Justice as a tool for peace-making: truth commissions and international criminal tribunals. New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 28, 485-503.
  • Hamber, Brandon. 2003. Rights and reasons: challenges for truth recovery in South Africa and Northern Ireland. Fordham International Law Journal 26, no. 4:1074-1094.
  • Harvey, Colin J. 1999. The politics of legality. Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 50, no. 4:528-567.
  • Hayner, Priscilla. 1998. Truth commissions: exhuming the past. NACLA Report on the Americas 32, 30-32.
  • Hill, Stephen. 2000. To prosecute or not. World Today 56, no. 8:35-37.
  • Hobbins, A. J., and Daniel Boyer. 2001. Seeking Historical Truth: the International Commission of Inquiry into the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine. Dalhousie Law Journal 24, no. 2:139-191.
  • Horowitz, Jonathan T. 2003. Racial (re)construction: the case of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. National Black Law Journal 17, no. 1:67-83.
  • Ifill, Sherrilyn A. 2003. Creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Lynching. Law & Inequality 21, no. 2:263-311.
  • Jowdy, Gregory,student author. '97. Truth commissions in El Salvador and Guatemala: a proposal for truth in Guatemala. Boston College Third World Law Journal 17, 285-330.
  • Kaye, Mike. 1997. The role of truth commissions in the search for justice, reconciliation and democratisation: the Salvadorean and Honduran cases. Journal of Latin American Studies 29, 693-716.
  • Klosterman, Theresa,student author. '98. The feasibility and propriety of a truth commission in Cambodia: too little? Too late? Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law 15, no. 3:833-869.
  • Koss, Tama,student author. 2002. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission: a Model for the Future. Florida Journal of International Law 14, no. 3:517-526.
  • Langa, Pius. 2000. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The International Lawyer 34, no. 1:347-354.
  • Lansing, Paul, and Julie C. King. '98. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission: the conflict between individual justice and national healing in the post-apartheid age. Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law 15, no. 3:753-789.
  • Leman-Langlois, Stephane. 2002. Constructing a common language: the function of Nuremberg in the problematization of postapartheid justice. Law & Social Inquiry 27, no. 1:79-100.
  • Llewellyn, Jennifer J., and Robert Howse. 1999. Institutions for restorative justice: the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. University of Toronto Law Journal 49, no. 3:355-388.
  • Markel, Dan,student author. 1999. The justice of amnesty? Towards a theory of retributivism in recovering states. University of Toronto Law Journal 48, no. 3:389-445.
  • Nina, Daniel. '97. Panel beating for the smashed nation? The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, nation building and the construction of a privileged history in South Africa. Australian Journal of Law and Society 13, 55-71.
  • Omar, Abdullah. 1998. Truth and reconciliation in South Africa: accounting for the past. Buffalo Human Rights Law Review 4, 5-14.
  • Pejic, Jelena. 2001. The Yugoslav Truth and Reconciliation Commission: a shaky start. Fordham International Law Journal 25, no. 1:1-22.
  • Reydams, Luc. 2002. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa Report (book review). Revue Quebecoise de Droit International 15, no. 1:241-244.
  • Russell-Brown, Sherrie L. 2003. Out of the Crooked Timber of Humanity: The Conflict Between South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and International Human Rights Norms Regarding "Effective Remedies". Hastings International and Comparative Law Review 26, no. 2:227-263.
  • Sachs, Albie. 2002. The South African Truth Commission (Lecture). Montana Law Review 63, no. 1:25-37.
  • Sachs, Albie. 2002. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Lecture). Connecticut Law Review 34, no. 3:1037-1047.
  • Sachs, Albie. 2001. Honoring the truth in post-apartheid South Africa. The North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation 26, no. 3:799-811.
  • Sachs, Albie. 1999. Truth and reconciliation. SMU Law Review 52, no. 4:1563-1578.
  • Sanders, Mark. 2002. Renegotiating Responsibility after Apartheid: Listening to Perpetrator Testimony. American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law 10, no. 3:587-595.
  • Sanders, Paul. 2002. Civil society's big challenge is ending impunity. Transnational Associations Associations Transnationales 54, no. 3:208-212.
  • Savage, Tyrone, Barbara Schmid, and Keith A. Vermeulen. 2001. Truth commissions and transitional justice: a select bibliography on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission debate. Journal of Law and Religion 16, no. 1:73-186.
  • Schabacker, Emily W. 1999. Reconciliation or justice and ashes: amnesty commissions and the duty to punish human rights offenses. New York International Law Review 12, no. 2:1-54.
  • Scharf, Michael P. '97. The case for a permanent international truth commission. Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law 7, 375-410.
  • Shea, Dorothy C. The South African Truth Commission: the politics of reconciliation. U S Inst Peace, 2000.
  • Skaar, Elin. 1999. Truth commissions, trials--or nothing? policy options in democratic transitions. Third World Quarterly 20, no. 6:1109-1128.
  • Slye, Ronald C. 1999. Apartheid as a crime against humanity: submission to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Michigan Journal of International Law 20, no. 2:267-300.
  • Smith, Carsten. 2001. Accommodating Individual Criminal Responsibility and National Reconciliation: the UN Truth Commission for East Timor. American Journal of International Law 95, no. 4:952-966.
  • Smith, Gregory L. 2001. Immune to truth? Latin American truth commissions and U.S. support for abusive regimes. Columbia Human Rights Law Review 33, no. 1:241-273.
  • Sypnowich, Christine. 1999. Proceduralism and democracy. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 19, no. 4:649-657.
  • Tepperman, Jonathan D. 2002. Truth and consequences. Foreign Affairs 81, no. 2:128-145.
  • Truth commissions: a comparative assessment; a transcript of an international meeting. World Peace Found, 1997.
  • United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Library: Truth Commissions.
  • Vasallo, Mark,student author. 2002. Truth and reconciliation commissions: general considerations and a critical comparison of the commissions of Chile and El Salvador. The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review 33, no. 1:153-182.
  • 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.
  • Wing, Adrien K. 2000. The South African transition to democratic rule: lessons for international and comparative law. American Society of International Law Proceedings 94, 254-259.