The author considers the conditions under which truth commissions were established in Chile and South Africa and how those factors shaped their operations and the ways in which they connect with society as a whole and the extent to which they can help build societies where human rights are respected. One of the key factors she considers is that because they are set up in countries experiencing political transition, following lengthy periods of repression and violence, their establishment has to be negotiated with the very people responsible for the oppression. She raises the question of whether they have been of help to the victims/survivors or not—the question of reconciliation and forgiveness in the absence of the refusal by many of the perpetrators to acknowledge what they have done or to repent and commit never to do it again.
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