International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Long Night’s Journey Into Day

There was one moment in this film that struck me in terms of the mediatory role the TRC has acted out. The Goniwe widow points out that she is not here for Eric Taylor to redeem himself; rather, she says something to the effect of the TRC being able to fulfill that duty. Her statement underscores two issues – the fact that there are limitations to reconciliation and who should be granting redemption, if any. I found it interesting that the Cradock 4 widows had legal representation in the Taylor hearing; it suggested to me  that the widows had some involvement in preventing Taylor’s amnesty. Nonetheless, the victims lose the personal choice of granting redemption (unlike the Timorese case where victimised parties agreed to reconciliation) in the pursuit of collective justice.  Is it fair to override the victims’ desire in order to obtain peace? At any rate, it is important to to consult the victims and whether they are permissive of a third party granting amnesty as some victims might not ever be psychologically ready to forgive but may recognise the cognitively dissonant unfairness in denying a chance for perpetrators to grow and move on.

On another note that speaks to the effectiveness of the TRC, Amnesty hearing transcipts are accessible online,  including those of the Cradock 4 case.

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One response to “Long Night’s Journey Into Day

  1. mfcarpenter November 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I think you’ve raised some great points here. After reading what you’ve said about the Goniwe widow, it seems plausible to ask ‘who is the TRC really serving?’ The perpetrators have an avenue to receive amnesty — even further, a forum to seek forgiveness and redemption — while victims are left angry and (in some cases) unwilling to recognize the reconciliation process. The case of Eric Taylor and the Cradock-4 widows seems, to me, to be a case where the perpetrator is benefitting more from the TRC than victims. While I don’t think this case is universal, we’ve seen cases where the TRC and others like it clearly help victims, but the reconciliation process and the mission of the truth commission certainly isn’t universal either. Much of the scholarly literature on truth commissions highlights the criticisms and shortfalls of the TC process, but I don’t recall literature focusing on how perpetrators may be benefitting more than victims.

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