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The Right to Truth, The Right to Know

Transitional Justice in South Africa has been stymied. The business of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is unfinished. Amnesty granted in exchange for full disclosure was a compromise and the idea of restitution was implicit in reconciliation.

The Right to Truth, The Right to Know

TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE IN BRIEF

Transitional Justice in South Africa has been stymied. The business of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is unfinished. Amnesty granted in exchange for full disclosure was a compromise and the idea of restitution was implicit in reconciliation. But reparations were paid to only a small percentage of Apartheid victims and the structural causes of the conflict were not addressed by the TRC. Moreover, although the commission undertook to make its findings available to South Africans, the South African History Archive notes on its website that it has often been necessary to go to court to access TRC records. The withholding of information about past atrocities contradicts the process of truth, recovery and transparency to bring about reconciliation and prevent recurrence. The report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights acknowledged in 2009 that "A key event in the recognition that archives and archivists play a central role in undergirding human rights was the adoption in 1997 by the Commission on Human Rights of a set of Principles for the protection and promotion of human rights through action to combat impunity." The Principles were updated in 2005. The Principles emphasise that a person has a right to know the truth about what happened to him/her and that society as a whole has both a right to know and a responsibility to remember. As part of the measures to protect the right to know, the Principles require the State to "ensure the preservation of, and access to, archives concerning violations of human rights and humanitarian law".1 The reason for the State's assumption of a duty to remember is "to guard against the perversions of history that go under the names of revisionism or negationism."

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