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Reconciliation via truth? A study of South Africa’s TRC.

Clark, Janine Natalya
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) Journal of Human Rights. 11(2): 189-209.

Within the transitional justice literature, there is much speculation about the relationship between truth and reconciliation, yet little concrete empirical evidence. This is perhaps unsurprising, as measuring this relationship and proving causation poses significant challenges. Focused on South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission (TRC), the aim of this article is not to definitively answer the question of whether truth leads to reconciliation but rather to explore possible ways of gauging and assessing this. To this end, it poses and engages with three subquestions: Is truth-telling healing for victims, how much truth is needed for reconciliation, and is it enough that people simply accept the truth? The article’s principal argument concerns the third of these questions. It proposes that for reconciliation to take place, acceptance of the truth is not sufficient. The truth must penetrate society to the extent that it helps to bring about fundamental changes in the way that people live their daily lives and relate to one another. Hence, in order to measure whether truth aids reconciliation, one possible approach is to focus on the practical and attitudinal effects of truth within a society. The impact of truth on behavior and outlook is an important area for future research. This is an empirical study that draws upon 15 semi-structured interviews conducted in South Africa in July and August 2010. (author’s abstract)


AbstractAfricaCourtsEvaluation/StudyPost-Conflict ReconciliationRJ and the WorkplaceRJ in SchoolsRJ OfficeStatutes and LegislationTeachers and Students
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