How Much Need for Truth within Conflict Resolution?
During my studies over Transitional Justice in Argentina, I came across an original mechanism of prosecution: the Juicios por la verdad. They were a criminal procedure adopted in the Nineties, which aimed at the mere discovery of the truth. Based only on the enquiry phase, these proceeding-like instruments lacked one of the trial’s goals: the injunction of a penalty to the perpetrator of a crime. The victims’ families (called secondary victims) turned to the judges, claiming for the discovery of past atrocities and the whereabouts of the missing bodies. They demanded the satisfaction of their right to know the fate of their disappeared beloved, as well as that to bury and to mourn them.
Criminal legal reasons, the existence of amnesty laws and legal pardons, pushed the families to ask for truth, rather than for justice. Nevertheless, along with Argentina, other countries distinguished themselves for the same strain for truth, within the context of Transitional Justice. The spread of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South America as well as in Africa testifies an increasing attention towards the establishment of truth, as part of the procedure to solve a conflict. Involving the personal and the collective sphere of interaction, the process of truth revelation provides the community with a shared narrative, leading towards a nation-building process. On the other hand, the victim finds an answer to what Procedural Justice identifies as the need to rationally control emotions, through the acknowledgement of the crimes and their motivations. This rationalisation comes from the human desire to seek closure: the enlightenment over the fate of one’s beloved delivers the victim from the anxiety of uncertainty.
A procedure that supports the broad discovery of truth, potentially through dialogue between the parties, will better satisfy this victim’s need.