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The Human Right to Truth: Lessons Learned From Latin American Experiences with Truth Telling

Mendez, Juan E.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In, Tristan Anne Borer, editor, Telling the Truths: Truth Telling and Peace Building in Post- Conflict Societies. Notre Dame: University Of Notre Dame Press. pp.115-150

This chapter explores official truth-telling experiences in Latin America and their contributions to social peace in the aftermath of massive and systematic human rights violations. It also refers to recent developments in international law, prompted by experiences with truth and justice, and explores the extent to which some emerging principles in international law constrain the state’s ability to decide whether or not to reveal the truth. I hope that this essay will contribute to an understanding of how truth assists in conflict resolution; however, an initial caveat is necessary. The conflicts that gave rise to serious human rights violations in Latin America were by and large not primarily ethnic in nature (with the notable exception of the war against the indigenous population of Guatemala and possibly the disproportionate price paid by Andean peoples in Peru’s wars against Sendero Luminoso and the Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru [MRTA] guerillas). As a result (and again with Guatemala excepted), the truth-telling mechanisms commented upon below did not take ethnicity into account as a factor in human rights violations. They were not concerned with offering recommendations to overcome racism and ethnic confrontation as a means to attain a lasting peace. The extent to which Latin American experiences with no ethnic component can be applied, mutatis mutandi, to the resolution of more markedly ethnic conflict exceeds the scope of this chapter. (excerpt)


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