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Memory of justice : dealing with the past violation of human rights : the politics of Indonesia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Otsuki, Tomoe


In the last two decades, many countries going through transitional justice have established truth commissions. Unlike conventional war tribunals, most truth commissions are established by the local government and local human rights groups. Truth commissions are still a nascent political choice, yet a sizable literature has developed around it, evaluating its potential as a new institution for dealing with the past and moving towards restorative justice. This work examines four major questions debated in the transitional justice literature over truth versus justice: 1) whether or not a truth commission is an valid alternative mechanism to seeking out retributive justice, 2) whether or not truth commissions are the product of political compromise which avoiding justice, 3) if truth commissions can be the agent of new national identity and national unity founded on the principles of universal human rights, and 4) if amnesty can be legitimized. This work aims to determine to what extent the idea itself of truth commissions has been actualized up to now and what lot it may expect in the future, despite incidental political restrictions and difficulties in the political transition. Despite the common assertion that the goals of truth commissions are to bring about official acknowledgment of the past, restore the dignity of the victims, and achieve reconciliation in divided society, this paper does not intend to evaluate the truth commissions in the past based on these criteria; nor does this work intend to argue what truth commissions can resolve in the transitional justice societies. Rather, this paper seeks to uncover what social reaction or human emotions truth commissions in the past have evoked in a divided society. To explore the question, this paper focuses on the distinctive activities and merits of truth commissions from the standpoint of retributive justice and looks into the important implication in the interaction between the victims and the perpetrators, as well as between the audience and those two parties. Roger Errera, a member of the French Conseil d’Etat, stated that “Memory is the ultimate form of justice.” Inspired by the statement, this work argues that justice can be found in the act of pursing truth, remembering it, and responding to those voices from the past.

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