1 / 5


Why a Truth Comission?

Have a Clear Purpose and Vision of the Peace and Justice Framework

Parties to a peace process need to be clear about the reasons why a truth commission may be included in an agreement. A generic or vague motivation may hide several incompatible expectations, which will constitute major problems further along in the process. At the same time, clarity about the goals of the commission must be complemented with realism. Honesty with the stakeholders is key to ensuring that each group decides the measure of its commitments and contributions.

2 / 5


Where Will the Commission Take Place?

Conduct a Realistic Evaluation of Conditions and Demand

It is vital to identify the type of conflict being addressed in the peace negotiations and gauge the attitude of the public towards truth-seeking processes. Actively promoting a truth commission when there is little local understanding or demand risks creating a commission with a weak constituency that is incapable of overcoming obstacles.

Other elements to consider include: levels of scrutiny and the effective cessation of hostilities. It is also critical to know whether the country can mobilize adequate capacities and resources to sustain the transitional justice measures it has chosen.

3 / 5


When is the Process Expected to Take Place?

Guide the Peace Process Through Its Phases

Mediators and transitional justice practitioners must evaluate the appropriate sequencing of transitional justice measures and determine which measures are warranted. In some peace processes, desire for simultaneity and immediacy has led to the conflation of all expectations and many tasks into the single institution of a truth commission. Such an approach may result in an overextended mandate, excessively complex legal instruments, or unrealistic demands on resources.

4 / 5


How Could This Vision be Implemented?

Distinguish Between Human Rights Obligations and Good Practices

The proliferation of standards that would govern the establishment and implementation of a truth commission has posed problems in some cases. Not all practices are transferable, and accepting too many prescriptive propositions deprives practitioners of initiative and creativity. At the same time, the importance of respecting human rights obligations is clear: In the absence of a firm commitment to human rights, peace negotiators may pressure the parties to cheat victims of their rights through blanket amnesties or insufficient criminal investigations.

Within the parameters set by human rights obligations, the participants in a peace process should preserve a certain degree of flexibility and creativity to provide the best odds for a future truth commission. This includes context-specific decisions regarding the speed of the truth commission process, the relative strength of the commission’s powers, the appointment of its members, etc.

5 / 5


Who Will Carry Out This Vision?

Remember the Human Factor

Selecting strong commissioners and ensuring that they can hire competent staff is an absolute necessity for a successful truth commission. Commissioners need to: reach key decisions regarding the priorities and methods of the commission, clarify obscure or ambiguous areas within mandates, engage in dialogue with constituencies, seek alliances, and neutralize interruptions of the peace process. Commissions suffer when commissioners become preoccupied with internal politics.