In the age of human rights, states are increasingly seeking truth and reconciliation to address past atrocities and historical injustices. From South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to Canada’s Residential School TRC, we are witnessing a shift from the dominance of retributive transitional justice towards new models of restorative justice. The worldwide popularity of truth commissions has coincided with the resurgence of memory politics and a period of increasing challenge of the nation-state’s hegemony over history.
Truth commissions are also central to the emergent notion of the right to truth defined by the United Nations as the right of the public and individuals to know the truth about gross human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law. The UN frames the right to truth in terms of the importance of “preserving historic memory relating to gross human rights violations through the conservation of archives relating to those violations.”
Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow, Executive Secretary of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC)