Truth Commissions, a Failure in the Country, Successful in Other Countries

In Argentina, the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (Conadep) was created after the inauguration of then President Raul Alfonsin on December 15, 1983. The Commission was formed to investigate the fate of the victims of fenorced disappearance and other violations of human rights during the military dictatorship known as the National Reorganization Process from 1976 to 1983, which was actually a series of four military juntas.

The military dictatorship that had come to be known as the period of the “dirty war” had committed some 2,300 political assassinations, arrested around 10,000 persons and was responsible for the disappearance of 20,000 to 30,000 persons.

The Commission investigated and gathered information regarding the violations committed during the seven years of military dictatorship. The report, which consists of 50,000 pages, was completed and submitted to then president Alfonsin in September, 1984, nine months after it was formed. The report of the commission was published in a book with the title Nunca Mas (Never Again). It disclosed the existence of 340 clandestine detention centers throughout the country and established a list of 1,500 police and military suspects. The report became the basis for the “trial of the juntas” by a Federal Tribunal. Senior ranking officers of the army and the navy who were in power from 1976 to 1983 were convicted. through the Federal tribunal. According to reports, this was the first time that that former Argentinean dictators had been tried and convicted.

In South Africa, a court-like body called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was formed by President Nelson Mandela after the end of the apartheid. Apartheid was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government from 1948 and 1994.

South Africa’s TRC was reportedly successful because it was able to investigate human rights abuses by bringing forward victims and witnesses in courts for public and private trials. The TRC was also able to restore the victim’s dignity by its reparation and rehabilitation policy. Even the alleged perpetrators were allowed to request for amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution through TRC’s Amnesty Committee.

The truth commission of Chile called the Rettig Commission was established to investigate violations of human rights during the term of General Augusto Pinochet from 1973 to 1990. Like the military junta in Argentina, Pinochet’s regime also claimed the lives of thousands of victims of killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations. The Latin American Institute on Mental Health and Human Rights described the military junta as a “situation of extreme trauma” affecting about 200,000 persons including individuals killed, tortured or exiled. On March 19, 2008, 24 former police officers were convicted by a court in Chile for cases of kidnapping, torture and murder. (

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