Truth and reconciliation commission

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This article is about commissions formed to discover and reveal past wrongdoings. For other uses, see Truth Commission (disambiguation).
A world map showing all the truth and reconciliation commissions in Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile.

A truth commission or truth and reconciliation commission is a commission tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government (or, depending on the circumstances, non-state actors also), in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past. They are, under various names, occasionally set up by states emerging from periods of internal unrest, civil war, or dictatorship.

As government reports, they can provide proof against historical revisionism of state terrorism and other crimes and human rights abuses. Truth commissions are sometimes criticised for allowing crimes to go unpunished, and creating impunity for serious human rights abusers. Their roles and abilities in this respect depend on their mandates, which vary widely.

One of the difficult issues that has arisen over the role of truth commissions in transitional societies, has centered on what should be the relationship between truth commissions and criminal prosecutions.[1]

The first such commission was Argentina's National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, created by President of Argentina Raúl Alfonsín on 15 December 1983. It issued the Nunca Más (Never Again) report, which documented human rights violations under the military dictatorship known as the National Reorganization Process. The report was delivered to Alfonsín on 20 September 1984 and opened the door to the Trial of the Juntas, the first major trial held for war crimes since the Nuremberg trials in Germany following World War II and the first to be conducted by a civilian court.

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  1. ^ See Lyal S. Sunga "Ten Principles for Reconciling Truth Commissions and Criminal Prosecutions", in The Legal Regime of the ICC (Brill) (2009) 1075-1108.


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