Transitional justice and the politics of pragmatism: addressing historical injustices and atrocities through truth commissions – perspectives from the South African TRC and the East Timorese CAVR

Heather Castel (2010). Transitional justice and the politics of pragmatism: addressing historical injustices and atrocities through truth commissions – perspectives from the South African TRC and the East Timorese CAVR PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland.

       
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s40331803_phd_abstract.pdf Final Thesis Lodgement application/pdf 16.28KB 4
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Author Heather Castel
Thesis Title Transitional justice and the politics of pragmatism: addressing historical injustices and atrocities through truth commissions – perspectives from the South African TRC and the East Timorese CAVR
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-07
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Robert Elson
Dr Andrew Bonnell
Total pages 400
Total black and white pages 400
Subjects 21 History and Archaeology
Abstract/Summary This thesis examines the operations of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the East Timorese Commisio de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliacao (CAVR) within a comparative framework. It evaluates the portability of the TRC as a model for other transitions and specifically for the CAVR, and assesses to what extent and degree the TRC was utilised as a “model” for the CAVR and whether the model was successfully employed. Post-TRC truth commissions have become important mechanisms in transitional justice to examine past atrocities and historical injustices and apportion accountability, culpability and responsibility. The TRC set new standards for truth commissions because it had a robust investigative mandate that permitted it to examine all human rights violations committed during the apartheid years. It instituted innovative “themed” hearings that focussed on historical events and institutions central to the apartheid state as well as political hearings. It independently and unilaterally provided limited amnesty to perpetrators that fulfilled the mandated requirements. In making its Report findings based on submitted evidentiary documentation, the TRC utilised international law to establish that apartheid was a crime against humanity. The CAVR is the first-ever Asian truth commission and while it had a lesser profile than the TRC it set some significant precedents in its own right. Its utilisation of traditional, restorative law in the Community Reconciliation Procedures (CRP) was successful and its National Public Hearings (NPH) were themed hearings tailored to the provisions of international law that brought acknowledgment to victims that their violations were universally recognised crimes. The CAVR was intended by the UN as a “complementary judicial process” but jurisdiction over all serious crimes committed during 1999 remained the prerogative of the formal judiciary. While the CAVR heard testimonies from perpetrators of minor crimes, it was not authorised to issue amnesties, merely to facilitate them. However, it could examine historical crimes from 1975 – 1999. Chega! detailed the CAVR findings that the Indonesian military, primarily, was responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes during its illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor. While some aspects of the TRC were utilised by the CAVR, the circumstances in which they operated were very different. These factors, amongst others, preclude the portability of the TRC as a “model”.
Keyword Transitional justice
historical injustices
atrocities
truth commissions
South African TRC
East Timorese CAVR
Additional Notes None

 
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