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Ten principles for reconciling truth commissions and criminal prosecutions

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Chapter Summary

This chapter compares and contrasts the functions of truth commissions and criminal prosecutions and proposes some considerations for optimizing the relationship between the two. It situates the rise of truth commissions in the historical context of international relations. The chapter considers the role and value of truth commissions in relation to the inadequacy of criminal prosecutions in societies struggling with the aftermath of major violence. It highlights points where truth commissions conflict with criminal prosecutions in principle and in practice, focusing mainly on the use of amnesties. The chapter discusses the international communitys renewed commitment to combat impunity for serious crimes, and how this conditions the degree of freedom States have to establish a truth commission as an alternative to criminal prosecutions. It proposes ten general principles for reconciling truth commissions and criminal prosecutions with a view to optimizing their respective contributions to justice, peace and human rights.

Keywords: amnesties; combat impunity; criminal prosecutions; human rights; truth commissions



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