Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission came into existence to examine the atrocious human rights abuses that occurred during the times of Apartheid in South Africa. The TRC was split into three distinct committees; one for the examination of human rights violations, another for reparations and rehabilitation, and the final, and possibly most controversial one; amnesty. [1]

Any and all people were subject to the investigation of the TRC, including citizens, police and most importantly, members of the ruling class at the time, the African National Congress.

The TRC focused on the years between 1960 and 1994; where apartheid was legal. Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, who later won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, was the Chairperson of the TRC. Tutu is a South African social rights advocate and a staunch opponent of apartheid policies in the 80’s. [2]

It is important to note that during the TRC’s investigation, members of the National Intelligence Agency destroyed large quantities of reports whilst defying government orders to cease and desist. [3] The TRC asserts that although the destruction of material complicated their investigative efforts, it did not hamper the clear evidence of apartheid and its inherent human rights violations.

An in-depth look into what types of human rights abuses occurred in South Africa can be found on the full TRC report at: http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/trc_0.pdf [4]

Now the most controversial part of this commission was the committee that handled amnesty. The amnesty program only provided immunity for those who conducted a violation of humans rights, those violations had to have occurred between 1960 and 1994, it had to originate from a political perspective, had to admit fault (even in the case of self-defense) and had to provide full disclosure (all relevant information.)

In order for it to be considered political, the individual asking for amnesty must be a member of one of the political parties at the time, and the committee also had to determine whether or not it was committed on behalf of the political party. The act had to be ‘proportional’ to its political objective.

If these criterion were met then the individual asking for amnesty would be granted a pardon. Any legal proceedings pertaining to that individual would be terminated, and they would be released if they were previously incarcerated. Furthermore, any criminal record would be erased and any criminal or civic liability would be removed. But, any civil judgements that had already been granted would not be reversed (money would not have to be given back.) [3]

Given that apartheid was and still is a sensitive topic, it is clear why some individuals would find amnesty for those perpetrators as an atrocious act of injustice.

Over 7,000 people applied for amnesty and 849 individuals were granted immunity. Although the report recommended prosecution for those not granted immunity, no such act was performed after the publication of the report.

A Truth Commission would truly be necessary in every country. It is in my opinion, too late to set up a Truth Commission after atrocities and mass murders have occurred. It is safe to say that there are human rights violations all over the world, whether it be in a Third World country or a developed western nation.

The Truth Commission is simply a committee that holds powerful people and organizations accountable for their actions. No one group was larger than the TRC in South Africa, and a committee like the TRC should be implemented in every country so that it’s people are protected.

It is too often and evident that our country and regions are run by people who do not have our best interests at heart. And when such things are exposed, those individuals or corporations should be held accountable. It is not acceptable for rules to apply to some people and not others. The world is not a game where rules are altered for those in a ‘higher’ place. Everyone should be held to the same standard; if rules are broken, and basic human rights are violated, they should ALL be punished equally.

[1] http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/truth-and-reconciliation-commission-trc

[2] http://www.usip.org/publications/truth-commission-south-africa

[3] https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/south_african_truth_commission

[4] http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/trc_0.pdf

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