Source: (1999) University of Toronto Law Journal. 49(3). Summer. Downloaded 19 October 2005.

Some have characterized the number of political and social transformations in countries around the world from the 1970s through the 1990s as a “third wave” of democratization. Those transitions gave rise to a novel institutional response to past injustices and evils. So-called truth commissions were instituted in various countries in Latin America and Africa as an alternative to full prosecution or unconditional amnesty of perpetrators of human rights violations. Advocates and skeptics of truth commissions disagree on whether or not this kind of response is morally defensible, desirable, and fruitful (in terms of moving a society toward justice, reconciliation, and peace). Jonathan Allen is sympathetic to the appeal to the moral defensibility of truth commissions, yet he remains skeptical that the arguments advanced for them are successful in establishing the value of these institutions. In this context, and with a focus on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Allen brings in political theory to respond to justice-based challenges to the legitimacy of the idea of truth commissions.


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