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Watching a bargain unravel? A panel study of victims’ attitudes about transitional justice in Cape Town, South Africa.

Backer, David
June 4, 2015

Source: (2010) International Journal of Transitional Justice. IJTJ (2010) doi: 10.1093/ijtj/ijq015 .

Despite the extended nature of many transitional justice processes, collection of relevant longitudinal primary data, especially at an individual level, is rarely observed as a means of assessing the impact of formal measures. This article reports on a panel survey conducted in 2002–2003 and 2008 with 153 victims of apartheid-era violations from Cape Town, South Africa. During the interval between the two waves of the survey, both undertaken after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) completed its work, government policies concerning reparations, prosecutions and pardons undermined the compromises that were central to the TRC process and integral to the democratic transition. The data analysis shows that approval of the unique conditional amnesty offered by the TRC was at first surprisingly high, with many respondents acknowledging its practical rationale, but it fell dramatically by 2008. This decline in support is associated with an increased sense of the unfairness of amnesty and dissatisfaction with the extent of truth recovery. Knowledge of and attitudes about prosecutions and pardons do not appear to be contributing factors, though the results indicate a greater desire for accountability, even at the risk of instability. The findings emphasize the need for rigorous, ongoing evaluation of transitional justice processes to appreciate properly the complex and dynamic nature of individual attitudes and the influence of emergent events. (author’s abstract)


AbstractAfricaCourtsPost-Conflict ReconciliationRJ in SchoolsStatutes and Legislation
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