Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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Abstract

Citizens of South Africa are confronting a painful past through the new nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or TRC, which thus far has heard thousands of reports (many televised) about murders, torture, and other human rights abuses that took place during the apartheid era. South Africa's TRC is grounded in a constitutional commitment to the African concept of “ubuntu,” or humaneness. Amnesty is available on a conditional basis to alleged perpetrators. The author assesses the potential restorative power of truth-telling; the significance of sympathetic witnesses; and the tasks of both perpetrators and bystanders in the TRC process. Aspirations for justice are considered along with restoring dignity to victims, offering a basis for individual healing, and promoting reconciliation of a divided society.

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