Source: (2014) Cardozo Law Review. 35:2263-2348.

Almost forty years after the first truth commission convened and more than sixty-seven others have been employed, there is little clarity on how they contribute to their stated objectives and in which transitional contexts they succeed or fail. This Article uses data gathered from my field research in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to develop a theoretical framework for understanding in which contexts truth commissions may be the most effective. Using insights from the legal transplant literature and applying it to the diffusion of truth commissions, this Article finds that truth commissions face greater challenges carrying out their mandates in postconflict as opposed to post-authoritarians ocieties. In post-confict societies, weak institutions to support a truth-telling process combined with large numbers of victims and perpetrators will tend to overwhelm truth commissions. These factors, along with the lack of moral consensus surrounding mass violence, interact to make truth commissions function less optimally in post-conflict contexts. This Article finds that despite their widespread use in post-conflict and fragile states, truth commissions may have more utility in post-authoritarian or even non-transitional states. In sum, this Article argues that the kind of transition should determine the kind of transitional-justicei nterventions employed. (author's abstract)