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Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation: Judging the Fairness of Amnesty in South Africa

James L. Gibson
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 46, No. 3 (Jul., 2002), pp. 540-556
DOI: 10.2307/3088398
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088398
Page Count: 17
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Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation: Judging the Fairness of Amnesty in South Africa
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Abstract

Nations in transition to democratic governance often must address the political atrocities committed under the ancien regime. A common response is some sort of "truth commission," typically with the power to grant amnesty to those confessing their illicit deeds. Based on a survey of the South African mass public, my purpose here is to investigate judgments of the fairness of amnesty. I employ an experimental "vignette" to assess the contributions of various forms of justice to judgments of the fairness of granting amnesty. My analysis indicates that justice considerations do indeed influence fairness assessments. Distributive justice matters-providing victims compensation increases perceptions that amnesty is fair. But so too do procedural (voice) and restorative (apologies) justice matter for amnesty judgments. I conclude that the failure of the new regime in South Africa to satisfy expectations of justice may have serious consequences for the likelihood of successfully consolidating the democratic transition.

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