International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Sri Lankan criticisms of Truth Commissions

So far in class and in readings, it seems to me that we have heard generally positive things about truth commissions.  The Michael Humphrey article “International intervention, justice and national reconciliation: the role of the ICTY and ICTR in Bosnia and Rwanda” suggested that a truth commission be held in Rwanda “in order to promote the creation of a more inclusive political community that international and national trials have so far not achieved” (Humphrey 502).  This editorial from the Sri Lankan Times presents a decidedly different argument.

The author, Kishali Jayawardene, is one that has been severely disillusioned by Sri Lanka’s history with truth commissions, claiming that they appeared to be “manna from heaven” but in reality have been huge and expensive disappointments.  While the author admits that the 1994 Commissions of Inquiry into the Involuntary Removal or Disappearances of Persons made good recommendations, these recommendations were largely disregarded by the government except for the payment of token reparations.  Jayawardene accuses truth commissions of being wastes of public funds, of raising the expectations of citizens while duly ignoring their human rights’ claims, and of distracting the attention of the government from more important reforms.

While the author is clearly against the practice of truth commissions, it seems to me that he more has a problem with the way that they’ve been implemented, rather than the theory behind them.  In his conclusion, the author writes that, “Sri Lankan governments… are able to resort to these tactics time and time again and without challenge from this country’s so-called ‘intellectual’ community.”  The author fails to provide an alternative to truth commissions or a suggestion for how they might be improved, but ultimately I think it’s an interesting piece in that it shows the frustration that some have with such commissions.


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