Defining Truth Commission | Abstract

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Defining Truth Commission


In the past three decades, truth commission, which is one of major policy measures intended to struggle with past human rights violations in transitional and post-conflict societies, has attracted wide interest among social scientists and moral, legal, and political philosophers. Despite the immense and still growing literature on the subject, there has been no agreed definition of truth commission. To remedy this problem, the present paper tries to provide a new definition. I begin with the examination of a frequently cited definition given by Priscilla Hayner and identify its virtues and limitations. Next, I turn to the scrutiny of Mark Freeman’s formulation and argue that it is too restrictive to cover some of the investigatory bodies many researchers consider as truth commissions. Based on these considerations, I propose the third definition that covers the cases which are widely taken as truth commissions and excludes those which are not. I also divide the history of truth-seeking bodies into three periods and sketch them chronologically.

Makoto Usami

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