Volume 19, 1999
Audrey R. Chapman
Coming to Terms with the Past
Truth, Justice, and/or Reconciliation
This paper explores one of the major issues before transitional societies, the balance among truth, justice, and/or reconciliation. It focusses on the role of truth commissions, with an emphasis on the experience of South Africa. A central thesis of the paper is that establishing a shared truth that documents the causes, nature, and extent of severe and gross human rights abuses and/or collective violence under antecedent regimes is a prerequisite for achieving accountability, meaningful reconciliation, and a foundation for a common future. It develops and applies an approach to reconciliation based on and extending Donald Shriver's concept of "political forgiveness."