Source: (2000) Behavioral Sciences and the Law. 18(4): 459-477

At various times and places throughout history, the human rights of individuals and groups have been grossly abused by another individual or group, or by the government itself. The authors of this essay, Alfred Allan and Marietjie Allan, observe that historically there has been no organized attempt to deal with the psychological consequences of such abuses for those who survived. They contend that this has led to a self-perpetuating process of human rights abuse and counter-abuse, often over decades and even centuries. To break the cycle, what is needed is a cessation of the abuse followed by a transition process. Against this background, Allan and Allan examine international law’s contribution to the aftermath of human rights abuses, as well as methods whereby international legal institutions can assist with healing and reconciliation. They then evaluate the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a therapeutic tool.