Source: (2001) Journal of Law and Religion 16 (1), 1-33.

The twentieth century has seen enormous violations of human rights through organized oppression and infliction of suffering and death. The latter part of the twentieth century has also seen numerous attempts to respond to organized, mass injustices in ways that acknowledge past realities and at the same lay foundations for a more peaceful, just future. The current term for these efforts is 'transitional justice.' Though such attempts come in many varieties -- with court trials and truth commissions being two of the most common devices -- they share an assumption that truth about the past must be told publicly. Moreover, their pursuit of truth is usually framed in terms of four normative purposes: justice; reconciliation; reparation; and institutional reform. In this paper, Donald Shriver scrutinizes the uses and limits of court trials and truth commissions in finding the truth, especially in the context of those purposes. To explore these issues, he discusses the following matters: courts, war crimes, and crimes against humanity; truth commissions; and key issues for Christian social ethics.