The Truth About Truth Commissions: Why They Do Not Function Optimally in Post-Conflict Societies

86 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2013 Last revised: 20 May 2015

Date Written: August 13, 2013

Abstract

Using insights from the legal transplant literature to analyze the transplanting of truth commissions, this paper finds that truth commissions will face more challenges carrying out their mandates in post-conflict versus post authoritarian societies. In post-conflict societies, the combination of weak institutions to support a truth-telling process, combined with large numbers of victims and perpetrators will tend to overwhelm truth commissions. These factors concomitant with lower levels of moral consensus surrounding mass violence interact to make truth commissions function less optimally in post-conflict contexts. Truth commissions can be more successful carrying out institutional mandates in post-conflict contexts when combined with a court because of mutually-reinforcing effects. It concludes that, much more experimentation needs to be done in order to formulate effective and contextually appropriate responses to mass violence instead of the current “one-size-fits-all” approach in transitional justice.

Keywords: alternative dispute resolution, comparative law, human rights, international law, international institutions

Suggested Citation

Sirleaf, Matiangai V. S., The Truth About Truth Commissions: Why They Do Not Function Optimally in Post-Conflict Societies (August 13, 2013). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 35, August 2014; University of Baltimore School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2309537

Matiangai V. S. Sirleaf (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-1364 (Phone)

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