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Engaging diasporas in truth commissions: Lessons from the Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (LTRC) Diaspora Project

November 1, 2009

….The rights that states most often seek to vindicate through truth commissions – specifically the right to an investigation, the right to know and the right to reparations – are rights of victims. This is the fundamental distinction between truth commissions and prosecutorial processes. Truth commissions are victim-centered, focused on information and redress, whereas prosecutions are perpetrator-centered and focused on punishment.

….Apart from considering possible legal obligations, nations planning transitional justice processes should also consider the practical policy implications of diaspora engagement. Again, these implications are context specific, but the LTRC process demonstrates that diaspora engagement can have an array of effects on diaspora groups themselves, on resident nationals and on host-country nationals. These impacts are difficult to predict, control and evaluate but are nonetheless worthy of consideration as postconflict states examine all tools available to progress toward peaceful, stable development. Primary among these tools is the growing economic and political power of diasporas.

….Although there are strong legal and practical rationales for including diaspora groups in truth commission processes, feasibility is a concern. Truth commissions have historically planned to accomplish more than their time and resources allow. Most commissions must pare down their goals and narrow their work plans. The LTRC Diaspora Project demonstrates that creative approaches can expand a truth commission’s potential without substantially impacting the budget or timeline. Partnerships and models that are outside the norms of past practice or what is expected by the ‘international community’ should be actively considered.

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