The Peruvian Truth Commission’s Historical Memory Project: Empowering Truth-Tellers to Confront Truth Deniers
Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 6, Issue 4, 2007
20 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2008 Last revised: 12 Aug 2012
Date Written: December 4, 2008
This article examines the role memory recuperation projects play in responding to an preventing periods of state repression and abuse. In particular, the author discusses the case of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that worked for two years to produce its 2003 Final Report. Investigating its internal armed conflict (1980-2000), the TRC sought to engage victims-survivors in testimony taking in order to write a new official version of the violence between the various parties to the conflict, including state armed forces, paramilitaries, insurgent groups, and local defense committees. The author proposes that it is not just the memory product that has potential for curative and preventive purposes but also the process of empowering the formerly silenced to become protagonists in a human rights movement that holds the government accountable. Moreover, by helping to break down entrenched habits of fear and distrust, and nurturing the democratic value of free expression, the Peruvian TRC encouraged victims-survivors to participate in new grassroots movements to pursue their justice claims. However, she argues that the TRC provided only the first step in Peru's effort to reveal the truth about its tragic past, and that victims-survivors are beginning to reject passive telling to third-party authors and instead are appropriating their own agency in disseminating memory. The article concludes with a discussion on how it is the change in personal and political status as truth-tellers, and not just the content of this truth, that makes memory projects important endeavors.
Keywords: human rights, transitional justice, truth commission
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