Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Hidden War

Sari Kouvo reviews steps being taken in Afghanistan to explore transitional justice and the healing process that can come about through truth and reconciliation.

"While most policymakers in the West and in Afghanistan have been talking this year about the prospect of negotiations with the Taliban, transitional justice, an important element of any comprehensive peace process, has received much less attention. Transitional justice -- the process of dealing with legacies of past war crimes and human rights violations -- has always been an awkward subject for the Afghan government and for some of its more powerful international partners, which are implicated in previous injustices. However, some Afghan and international organizations have carefully laid the groundwork for a transitional justice agenda."

A broader survey of this issue is in the current issue of the International Journal of Transitional Justice. When Truth Commissions Improve Human Rights.

Most studies of truth commissions assert their positive role in improving human rights. A first wave of research made these claims based on qualitative analysis of a single truth commission or a small number of cases. Thirty years of experience with truth commissions and dozens of examples allow cross-national statistical studies to assess these findings. Two recent studies undertake that project. Their findings, which are summarized in this article, challenge the prevailing view that truth commissions foster human rights, showing instead that commissions, when used alone, tend to have a negative impact on human rights. Truth commissions have a positive impact, however, when used in combination with trials and amnesties. This article extends the question of whether truth commissions improve human rights to how, when and why they succeed or fail in doing so.

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Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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