The Case for an International Truth and Reconciliation Commission


The limitations of International Criminal Tribunals (ICTs) and national Truth & Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) suggest the need for a new type of transitional justice mechanism. ICTs focus excessively on retributory justice, with an inflexible format that does not adapt to local circumstances. TRCs are much more flexible and locally responsive but suffer from under-funding, corruption, and accusations of local political partisanship. An International Truth and Reconciliation Commission (ITRC) would sponsor TRC formation and operations as well as post-commission activities. Its mission would be to preserve TRCs local connections while providing them additional local independence, moral authority and financial support. Specific ITRC functions will include negotiating TRC formation agreements with national governments; providing specialized staff to run administrative functions; and providing links with international donors. A successful ITRC may challenge and weaken national governments and even established transitional justice institutions like the International Criminal Court. But the limitations of the latter institutions and the promise of a more broad based and individually tailored approach to transitional justice that the ITRC represents makes this risk worth taking.


Human Rights Law

Date of this Version

March 2006