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Without Truth, No Reconciliation. The South African "Rechtsstaat" and the Apartheid Past

Gerhard Werle
Verfassung und Recht in Übersee / Law and Politics in Africa, Asia and Latin America
Vol. 29, No. 1 (1. Quartal 1996), pp. 58-72
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43110597
Page Count: 15
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Without Truth, No Reconciliation. The South African "Rechtsstaat" and the Apartheid Past
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Abstract

In June 1995 South Africa passed the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act. This was South Africa's answer to the problems faced by societies in transition -how shall a new, democratic order deal with the wrongs of its non-democratic past? The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act entrusts important prerequisites of reckoning with the past to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It divides the Commission into three committees: a Human Rights Committee, an Amnesty Committee and a Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation. The Human Rights Committee is mandated tò investigate serious human rights abuses committed in the course of the conflicts of the past, . both by the government and by the liberation movements. It is the task of the Committee to establish the nature, extent and cause of the abuse; its history, the surrounding circumstances and the motives of those involved and the identity of those responsible. Through the Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation, the Commission is to advise Parliament on the best means of rehabilitating the victims of human rights abuses morally and, to some extent, economically. The Amnesty Committee deals with one of the most controversial issues in times of transition: whether to punish human rights offenders or grant amnesty for the sake of peace. Here South Africa has adopted a completely new solution by requiring those who need amnesty to apply of it and disclose all relevant facts with their application. In this way the perpetrators themselves contribute to reconciliation by acknowledging the wrongfulness of what they have done and assisting in the investigation.

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