March 24 marks the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims
Truth commissions are non-judicial inquiries established to determine the facts, root causes, and societal consequences of past human rights violations. Through their focus on the testimony of victims of atrocity, truth commissions provide acknowledgement and recognition of suffering and survival to those most affected.
The findings and recommendations of commissions can contribute to criminal justice, reparations, and institutional reform processes to redress past abuses and prevent new ones from occurring. In doing so, they provide an opportunity for divided societies to begin the process of rebuilding civic trust among citizens and in the institutions in place to serve them.
Truth commissions are evolving institutions: their focus is expanding to cover more types of violations, going beyond crimes against physical integrity to examine violations of economic, social, and cultural rights. They are also becoming more adept at capturing and addressing the experiences of different sectors of the population, including those of women, children, and indigenous peoples.
In Kenya, after the post-election riots of 2007–08, a truth commission was established to examine not only the immediate violence but its root causes as well. It has made a conscious effort to address the experiences of children and give them voice in the proceedings.