Source: (2002) Human Rights Dialogue 2(7):15-17. New York: Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs. Downloaded 19 May 2004.

Richard Wilson in this essay takes a critical look at the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He argues that in post-apartheid South Africa the notion of human rights was misused in the service of nation building. In particular, he asserts that human rights were employed by the emerging political elite to manufacture legitimacy for institutions like the TRC. The language of human rights thus became the language of political compromise rather than of principle and accountability. With all of this in mind, Wilson discusses the work of the TRC, retributive and restorative approaches to justice, and the status of nation building in South Africa. This article includes a response to Wilson by Vasuki Nesiah and Paul van Zyl. They concur with some of Wilson's cautions about the state of society in post-apartheid South Africa, but they contend that his particular criticisms of the TRC may be misguided.

Read Full Article