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Is Anyone Listening? A Review of the Research on Attitudes Towards Truth Commissions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 June 2019

Filipa Raimundo
Affiliation:
research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, and Guest Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Policy at ISCTE-IUL, Lisbon.
Joana Rebelo Morais
Affiliation:
PhD student of Comparative Politics at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon.
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Less than 30 years after the first studies on truth commissions appeared, the list of goals these transitional justice mechanisms are expected to achieve has grown substantially. Among these goals, the emergence of an acceptable ‘truth’ about the previous regime or conflict appears to be consensual. ‘Truth’ is therefore expected to constitute an important legacy of truth commissions. However, are they seen generally as the ideal mechanism for truth-telling? What is the link between the emergence of a consensual version of ‘the truth’ and the approval of the work of a truth commission? Does exposure to and participation in truth commissions affect the emotional and psychological wellbeing of individuals? These and other questions bring another essential legacy of truth commissions to the forefront: their impact on citizens.

As this chapter reflects, there are a number of challenges associated with collecting and analysing survey data on transitional justice. Yet the existing literature shows that these types of data are uniquely useful for improving our knowledge and reaching a better understanding of the performance of transitional justice mechanisms – mainly because they are an excellent tool with which to grasp the micro-level legacies of transitional justice and truth commissions in particular.

The chapter uses a bibliographic search to produce a review of the literature using attitudinal data on truth commissions and/or on the issue of ‘truth’, noting their main findings and discussing their theoretical and methodological features. To do this, the chapter is divided into three sections. The first offers an overview of those contributions, highlighting their main features and methodological choices. The second looks at three different sub-groups: preferences, assessment, and effects. The third presents some general conclusions and recommendations for future research and practice in the field of transitional justice in general and truth commissions in particular.

36 STUDIES ON ATTITUDES TOWARDS ‘TRUTH’ AND TRUTH COMMISSIONS

A sizeable share of the impact assessment studies in the field of transitional justice focuses on the institutional effects of mechanisms as trials, truth commissions and vetting measures.

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Publisher: Intersentia
Print publication year: 2019

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