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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Without truth, no reconciliation: the South African 'Rechtsstaat' and the apartheid past
Author:Werle, GerhardISNI
Periodical:Verfassung und Recht in Übersee
Geographic term:South Africa
offences against human rights
commissions of inquiry
Abstract:In June 1995 the South African Parliament passed the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act. This was South Africa's answer to the problems it faced in dealing with the legacy of its past, with the question of how to help victims of human rights abuses and restore their dignity, and whether to punish the criminality of the apartheid system or proclaim a general amnesty in the interests of internal peace. The author first describes the apartheid past and the background to the South African constitution of 1994, before concentrating on the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act. The Act provides for the thorough investigation of serious violations of human rights and stresses at the same time the necessity for compensation. It provides for the establishment of a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation. One of the thorniest issues in the Reconciliation Act is that of amnesty. Here South Africa has adopted a completely new solution by requiring those who need amnesty to apply for it and disclose all relevant facts. In this way the perpetrators themselves contribute to reconciliation by acknowledging the wrongfulness of what they have done and assisting in the investigation. This is South Africa's message to societies in transition: punishment is negotiable, the truth is not. Notes, ref., sum. (p. 4)