Has the Ability of Truth Commissions to Recommend Amnesty Been Effective in Enhancing Perpetrator Cooperation?

Jeremy Sarkin


This article examines the amnesty powers granted to a variety of truth commissions (TC). It considers whether the process by which TCs are able to recommend for perpetrators who cooperate with TCs (and usually provide truth) has ensured that such individuals come forward and cooperate with these institutions. This is decisive, as TCs everywhere experience difficulties in obtaining perpetrator cooperation and testimony. Crucially, unlike the South African TC, which had the power to directly grant amnesty, later TCs have only been able to recommend, to their governments, that amnesty be granted to specific persons who meet criteria laid out in the specific TC’s legal mandate. The article therefore examines the efficacy of TC amnesty powers in South Africa, Grenada, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nepal, Timor-Leste/Indonesia, Liberia, Kenya, South Korea, and Timor-Leste. All these institutions had different provisions as to when, and for what reasons they could make a recommendation that amnesty be given (besides the South African TC which could directly grant amnesty). This article touches on some of the problems that may occur during such processes that need careful attention to ensure that perpetrators enter such conditional amnesty processes, and tell the truth once they do. The lessons learnt from the various TC amnesty processes are brought to the fore to determine what future TCs ought to bear in mind should it be decided to use conditional amnesty methods.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5102/rdi.v15i3.5895

ISSN 2236-997X (impresso) - ISSN 2237-1036 (on-line)

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