Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Monday, August 25, 2008

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Rather than carrying through National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) Pakistan desperately needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

By and large, truth commissions are bodies established to research and report on human rights abuses over a certain period of time or in relation to a particular conflict. They allow victims, their relatives and perpetrators to give evidence of human rights abuses, providing an official forum for their accounts. In most instances, truth commissions are also required by their mandate to provide recommendations on steps to prevent a recurrence of such abuses. They are created, vested with authority, sponsored, and/or funded by governments, international organizations, or both.

Truth commissions exist for a designated period of time, have a specific mandate, exhibit a variety of organizational arrangements, and adopt a range of processes and procedures, with the goal of producing and disseminating a report, including conclusions and recommendations. Ultimately, the goals of such commissions are to contribute to end and account for past abuses of authority, to promote national reconciliation and/or bolster a new political order or legitimize new policies.

Closely related to truth commissions are commissions of inquiry into specific events, more narrowly circumscribed by duration, location and/or individuals involved. Similarly, a few nongovernmental human rights investigations have adopted truth commission-like roles in countries in the midst of political transition.

Such Commissions are put together with political leaders, journalists, eminent citizens, retired judges, professors, and human-rights activists as commissioners at national and regional levels.

Many countries have cherished the fruits of Truth Commission. In 2001, for example, a regulation issued by the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor established a Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation with a three part mandate: (1) to investigate human rights violations committed there between 1974 and 1999, resulting in the death of an estimated 200,000 East Timorese; (2) to facilitate reconciliation and reintegration of minor criminal offenders who submit confessions, through local "Community Reconciliation Processes"; and (3) to recommend further measures to prevent future abuses and address the needs of victims.

In Ecuador a Truth and Justice Commission was established to investigate at least 176 cases of human rights abuses over the past seventeen years.

The Commission on the Truth for El Salvador was set up and mandated by the UN, composed of former Colombian president Belisario Betancur; former Venezuelan foreign minister Reinaldo Figueredo Planchart; and Thomas Buergenthal, George Washington University law professor.

The Enquet Kommission Aufarbeitung von Geschichte und Folgen der SED-Diktator in Deutschland in Germany, was set up by members of the German Parliament in 1992 to investigate human rights violations under communist rule in East Germany from 1949 to 1989.

In 2001, the Parliament of Ghana passed a law establishing the National Reconciliation Commission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses during times of instability and unconstitutional governments. The Commission was charged also with making recommendations for redress of victims of human rights abuses and for institutional reforms to prevent such occurrences in the future.

A National Truth and Justice Commission was established in Haiti to investigate human rights abuses over a three-year period.

Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso established a Truth Commission to investigate human rights violations perpetrated during the military dictatorships of General Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega between 1968 and 1989.

In Peru, the caretaker government of Valentin Paniagua approved the establishment of a Truth Commission to investigate human rights violations committed between 1980 and 2000. In early September 2001, upon the request of the Catholic Church, the commission was renamed as Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A peace agreement between the government of Sierra Leone and the rebel Revolutionary United Front called for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission addressed impunity and provided a forum for both victims and perpetrators of past human rights abuses.

The Commission of Truth and Reconciliation was set up in 1995 by the South African parliament to investigate human rights violations during the apartheid-era between 1960 and 1994. Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu chaired the 17-member body. The commission held public hearings throughout South Africa at which former victims of human rights abuses told their stories. A reparation and rehabilitation committee was established to recommend appropriate forms of compensation for human rights victims.

In 2000, President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea inaugurated the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths to investigate the death of citizens opposed to past authoritarian regimes in South Korea.

Truth Commissions are not created in a vacuum. They are set up in response to specific human rights abuses, political harmony, which in turn stimulate outgrowth of the particular history, political culture, and institutional structure of a country. Any given political context provides both enabling and constraining forces.

Like a geographic environment, 'political context' provides a landscape that lays the ground for the defining parameters of truth commissions. For example, types of human rights abuse will shape the kind of investigation that is necessary. The political transition process will determine the extent to which former perpetrators remain in power. The greater, in turn, the power of former perpetrators, the more limited the investigative power of a commission will be. Political culture and public opinion, too, are important factors for the establishment of truth commissions. A national focus on either healing or justice will shape the creation process significantly. Widespread national support for a commission can balance out opposition from former perpetrators.

We have our top political leadership living in exile; we have loan usurpers, looters of exchequer, we have crippled constitution, limping institutions; booming crimes against Mukhtaran Mai(s); we have Baluchistan crisis, inter-faith disharmony, and a broken society. Does this lay of the land not vindicate too good contemporaneity for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission? (

No comments: