Source: (2004) International Studies Review. 6: 355–380.

This essay evaluates popular and scholarly claims about the peace-promoting benefits of formal truth-telling and truth-seeking mechanisms in the aftermath of civil wars. Its purpose is twofold. First, it synthesizes and clearly articulates in one place the full range of claims about the relationship between truth-telling and peacebuilding. Second, it evaluates these claims by systematically examining the core factual and theoretical assumptions on which they are based. An argument is made that many such claims--and their core assumptions--are flawed or highly contentious as well as that truth-telling advocates claim far more about the power of truth-telling than logic or evidence dictates. This is not to say that truth-telling has no role to play in preventing the resumption of violent conflict in postwar societies, only that proponents likely overstate its importance. Before proclaiming the necessity of truth commissions or trials in the aftermath of violent conflict, we need to better understand how truth-telling prevents the recurrence of civil war, how important it is relative to other factors and other peacebuilding strategies, and when it is likely to prove helpful, harmful, or irrelevant. Author's abstract.