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Trials, commissions, and investigating committees: The elusive search for norms of due process

Levinson, Sanford
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) In Truth v. justice: The morality of truth commissions, eds. Robert I. Rotberg and Dennis Thompson, 211-234. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Certain critiques of truth commissions contain arguments that such commissions deviate from regularized formal procedures of criminal law and that they are inadequate means of ascertaining truth about past events and rectifying past injustices. Much of the discussion of such issues addresses “transitionalâ€? regimes, and assumes a clear distinction between transitional regimes and “matureâ€? liberal regimes when it comes to trade-offs between certain norms of due process and the achievement of social justice. Levinson questions that distinction by examining a particular instance of great transition – the struggles over race, civil rights, and law in the United States in the 1950s and following. He contends that the United States does not rely exclusively on formal judicial procedures to address past matters of wrongdoing or injustice. Hence, the creation and use of alternative structures – such as truth commissions – may be necessary and desirable in certain contexts, without limiting them to and therefore justifying them by pleading a “transitionalâ€? regime.


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