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Power and cooperation: Understanding the road towards a truth commission.

Zhu, Ming M
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) ExpressO.

Truth commissions, usually described as a softer transitional justice
alternative to trials, gained traction in academic circles following the establishment
of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Though they are praised for their value in societal reconciliation and
widely recognized for their flexibility; little is understood of their causal
factors or requirements. This Article turns to this hole in the research and
examines the effects of one potential causal variable, the balance of power
between the warring parties. Through an in-depth examination of four
case studies, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, and East Timor, this Article
finds that truth commissions are more likely to be implemented following
conflicts that have ended without a clear and absolute winner. The analysis
suggests two things: first, scholars should shift from the ends-based
analysis of what works best to the means-based analysis of what will be
possible; and second, a quest for truth may first require a need for compromise. (Author’s abstract)


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