The Many Faces of Truth: Does the Truth Commission have a Future?

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issue


The term ‘truth commission’ usually describes time-limited, official (state) ‘committees of notables’, appointed to investigate some period of recent violence or atrocity and report on it for public edification. The end product has an indeterminate but powerful status, as some approximation to an official history. Neither journalism nor mere storytelling; not evidence nor verdict, the truth commission report seems to say that these things happened – these particular, terrible, dreadful things did, demonstrably happen - at this time, and on this place, and on this day; and this is how, and this may be why. Michael Ignatieff famously claimed that this kind of truthtelling ‘narrows the space of acceptable lies’. To refute propaganda, to outlaw denial or the rewriting of history, to expose and overturn the lies and silence of perpetrators, their organisations, and their regimes… surely these are noble aims? And yet the very idea of truth, let alone, of a single, state-sanctioned truth, may be in trouble if we really do now live in a ‘post-truth’ age.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPeace in Progress/ Por la Paz
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - May 2017


  • Truth Commissions


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