Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Anthropological Perspectives
The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Hilary Callan (ed.). Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell., (2017)
11 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2017 Last revised: 9 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 24, 2017
In periods of transition after political violence, a truth and reconciliation commission is one method for successor governments and international agencies to document past abuses of human rights. These temporary commissions investigate the covert activities of repressive regimes and rebel groups, document and publicize survivors’ testimonies, and recommend institutional reforms and restitution for victims and their families. Most commissions pursue a form of restorative justice that prioritizes the needs of survivors, without also trading truth for immunity from prosecution as occurred at the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Anthropological studies help us understand how the target audience of survivors actually responds to top-down national policy measures such as truth-telling, reparations and reconciliation, and how such transitional justice mechanisms might be designed to be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of those most affected.
Keywords: Transitional Justice, Restorative Justice, Political Violence, Human Rights, Legal Anthropology, Political Anthropology
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