Overcoming Apartheid, by James Gibson

Anyone engaged in conflict resolution, whether interpersonal or international, would agree that the process must begin with truth telling. But can truth telling be more than a beginning? Can it create a political environment hospitable to both perpetrator and victim?

Countries emerging from civil wars or other disruptive internal violence face the challenge of rebuilding their state in such a way that it will be habitable for people on different sides of the conflict as well as for those who had the misfortune of simply living in a country fraught with insecurity. States that wish to establish legitimate political institutions that will stand the test of time need to address the past in order to realize a better future. But how is this to be done?

Truth commissions are meant to provide a type of transitional justice that enables a state to deal with the past and create a future in which human rights violations will be less common. Twenty-four countries, including Chile, Sierra Leone, East Timor and Haiti, have established truth commissions or commissions of inquiry in the wake of major internal conflicts.