Confronting the Truth: The Functions, Practices and Challenges of Truth Commissions
Truth Commissions are by now an integral part of the transitional justice vocabulary and practice.
In countries as varied as Peru, South Africa, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Kenya and Brazil, truth commissions have been set up to investigate the patterns of past human rights violations.
The 2019 Spring School will provide a comprehensive, multidimensional and practical examination of this transitional justice mechanism, shedding light on both its aims and the practical challenges it has met or is likely to meet.
In engaging with these issues, the Spring School will address practically relevant questions about why to set up a truth commission and what role such an institution may play in addressing serious individually and collectively suffered wrongdoing. At the same time, the Spring School will directly engage with relevant questions about how to set up a truth commission, when and by whom.
Structure and Methodology
With the aim of linking theory with practical perspectives, the 2019 Spring School will combine interactive lectures on truth commissions and the relevant normative frameworks with practical exercises which will allow students to reflect on the aims and processes of truth commissions via an active and sustainable learning experience.
On the basis of a hypothetical case scenario, students will have to design and formulate the mandate of a ‘moot’ truth commission. Based on group work and with expert support, they will simulate roles in the advisory and drafting processes leading to the establishment of a truth commission.
Howard Varney, a leading expert on truth commissions and Senior Programme Advisor at the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) will be present throughout the entire Spring School, delivering the courses, sharing his field experience, guiding discussions and managing the practical exercise. He will be supported by a team of the Master of Advanced Study in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law (MTJ).
At the end of the Spring School, students will have gained insight into:
- The role of truth-seeking in transitional justice processes
- Normative frameworks and practices relevant to truth commissions
- Practical challenges faced in the process of establishing truth commissions
- The contribution of different actors and perspectives in shaping the mandate of a truth commission
- The importance of creatively adapting theoretical concepts to particular societal contexts
- The challenges in drafting detailed terms of reference to provide appropriate guidance for the work of a truth commission
- Group-based processes of argumentation and negotiation leading to some common position on particular aspects relevant to the work of truth commission.
The Transitional Justice Spring School forms part of the MTJ. It is open to external participants – diplomats, lawyers, legal advisers, judges, NGO staff, human rights advocates, media specialists, UN staff and staff from other international organizations, and academics and students interested in the topic – who are not enrolled in the MTJ and who want to deepen their expertise in functions setting-up, practice and challenges of truth commissions.
Participants obtain a certificate at the end of the Spring School (no ECTS credits).
Participants may request on-campus accommodation when applying. Due to the limited places available, accommodation is not guaranteed. Participants seeking on-campus accommodation are encouraged to request this as soon as possible.
Applications for the Transitional Justice Spring School must be submitted via this online form. If you encounter problems with your application, do not hesitate to contact us.
Your application will need to include:
- A short motivation letter (no more than one page)
- Your curriculum vitae
- Proof of your competence in English (a certificate or statement highlighting your solid background in English)
- A valid copy of your visa or residence permit (only applicants who require a visa to enter the Schengen area).
Once admitted to the spring school, participants receive instructions on how to pay. Proof of payment is required before you begin the spring school.