The Truth About the Truth Commission

Jeffery, Anthea
March 2000
Human Rights;Spring2000, Vol. 27 Issue 2, p19
South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established in 1995 to foster reconciliation among South Africans by revealing the truth about the killings and other gross violations of human rights committed on all sides in the conflicts of the past. Its mandate period extended from March 1960 to May 1994. The founding legislation of TRC requires that it provide a factual, comprehensive, even-handed, and fully contextualized account of these gross violations. It authorizes the TRC to grant amnesty to perpetrators on certain conditions, and to assist victims by, among other things, giving them a cathartic opportunity to relate their sufferings. In its October 1998 report, the TRC found the former National Party government and the Inkatha Freedom Party the principal perpetrators of gross violations. To a lesser extent, it held the African National Congress and the former United Democratic Front accountable for certain violations. On its publication in October 1998, the report of TRC was generally uncritically applauded. Careful evaluation shows, however, that the TRC deserves only a portion of its wide acclaim. It succeeded in capturing some of the horror perpetrated in the name of Apartheid and helped many victims come to terms with their suffering.


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