Truth Commissions

The Turn to Truth: Trends in Truth Commission Experimentation

Transitional justice is a field that has moved from “the margins to the mainstream of global politics” very rapidly. According to this study, “only recently has transitional justice moved from a stage of experimentation and speculation to institutionalization and reflection upon past experience.” An aspect of transitional justice that has experienced a very dramatic surge of growth in recent years is the use of truth commissions. Little data has been collected on this transitional justice mechanism. To make matters more complicated, “virtually no two compilations of truth commission experiences around the world are identical.” This article attempts to satisfy the current void in data by “[introducing] the most comprehensive truth commission database we know to be in existence.” In this source, truth commissions are defined without overly vague terms, “inclusion criteria” for truth commissions are established, and various case studies are explored. As more and more data pertaining to truth commissions is collected and recorded, it is important that we continue to look at the “patterns and trends in the use of truth commissions” in order to determine which practices are effective or ineffective.

Brahm, Eric, et al. “The Turn to Truth: Trends in Truth Commission Experimentation.” Web. June 2014. <>.


Fifteen Truth Commissions – 1974 to 1994: A Comparative Study (p. 598-611, 616-620, 635-655)

In accordance with “The Turn to Truth: Trends in Truth Commission Experimentation,” this source warns, “Although truth commissions have become increasingly popular, they are still relatively under-studied.” In this source, author Priscilla B. Hayner not only proposes a unique definition of truth commissions, but also provides a “description of fifteen truth commissions that have existed to date, and a comparison of some of the key issues highlighted by these commissions.” From Uganda and the Philippines to Chile and Germany, Hayner chooses to examine commissions that are diverse in location, structure, and operation. Hayner also studies the many challenges related to truth commissions and raises many questions. Who sponsors truth commissions? National governments, international organizations, or private organizations? When is the best time to initiate a truth commission? Should truth commissions have a time limit to complete their work? If so, can extensions be granted? Despite these many difficulties, truth commissions often play a critical role in “society’s coming to terms with a period of widespread abuses” and in ensuring that these abuses do not occur again.

Hayner, Priscilla B. “Fifteen Truth Commissions – 1974 to 1994: A Comparative Study.” Human Rights Quarterly. Vol. 16, No. 4. The Johns Hopkins University Press, November 1994. p. 598-611, 616-620, 635-655. Web. June 2014. <>.


Children and Truth Commissions

According to this source, “until recently, violations against children were not singled out from the atrocities committed against civilian populations generally.” Now, however, amid the ever changing and developing landscape of transitional justice, children and young adults are being recognized as an increasingly crucial part of the transitional justice process. This document specifically explains how children are becoming involved in truth commissions. Conflict directly affects the development of children, who are generally considered to be a more “vulnerable” portion of the population. Thus, the “rights [of children] must be respected” if they are to participate in truth commissions. This source describes the proper procedures, policies, and principles that should help ensure the protection of children during their involvement with truth commissions. According to this source, if all of these procedures are followed, the benefit of engaging children and young adults “in justice, reconciliation, and peace-building efforts is clear.” Youth not only have a unique voice and perspective to contribute to their society, but this also allows them to “assert a positive new identity, which could prove vital to breaking cyclical patterns of violence.”

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in cooperation with the International Center for Transitional Justice. “Children and Truth Commissions.” August 2010. Web. June 2014. <>.

Leave a Reply