How do governments deal with human rights violations committed by former regimes? How can adequate justice for the formerly oppressed be provided at the same time as recovery from the abuses of the former regime is promoted? For South Africa the solution has been the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), whose goal is to reconcile former enemies by providing amnesty to perpetrators who disclose the truth about the past to victims. This essay presents an overview of the TRC—its establishment, procedures, and operating principles—and examines the way in which the commission emphasizes forgiveness rather than retribution for past wrongs. This approach focuses on victims rather than perpetrators, and healing rather than punishment. While the TRC has a clear political focus, it is at its heart a deeply theological and ethical initiative.
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