Research Handbook on Transitional Justice
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Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett and Dov Jacobs

Providing detailed and comprehensive coverage of the transitional justice field, this Research Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to explore how societies deal with mass atrocities after periods of dictatorship or conflict. Situating the development of transitional justice in its historical context, social and political context, it analyses the legal instruments that have emerged.
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Chapter 20: Contributions of international commissions of inquiry to transitional justice

Catherine Harwood

Abstract

In recent decades, the United Nations has established many international commissions of inquiry (‘commissions’) to investigate alleged grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law and international crimes. These non-judicial fact-finding bodies issue findings of violations and propose recommendations for corrective responses. This chapter identifies and critically analyses the contributions of these commissions to transitional justice processes. Originally conceived as facilitators of international dispute resolution, commissions have become part of the UN’s toolkit of responses to situations of mass atrocity. An analysis of commissions’ practice shows that transitional justice principles have accompanied this functional evolution. The mandates of several commissions have squarely focused on concepts associated with transitional justice processes, including truth, justice and accountability. Numerous commissions have been established specifically to ensure that those responsible for violations are held accountable. Commissions’ investigations can shine a bright light onto situations of concern and act as a forum and a platform for victims to share their experiences. Their reports frequently recommend truth-seeking, accountability and reparative mechanisms. Yet the degree to which recommendations are implemented is influenced by several factors, notably the political will of stakeholders. There have been some notable successes as well as missed opportunities to seek truth and accountability. Ultimately, the extent to which commissions may promote and produce transitional justice is delimited by their institutional form, the wider political milieu, and the philosophy of transitional justice itself. International commissions of inquiry; United Nations; truth-seeking; accountability

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