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Part II The Right to Know, B Commissions of Inquiry, Principle 8 Definition of a Commission’s Terms of Reference

Alison Bisset

From: The United Nations Principles to Combat Impunity: A Commentary

Edited By: Frank Haldemann, Thomas Unger

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 16 July 2024

Right to truth — Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

Principle 8 provides for the creation of strong commissions with clear terms of reference that ensure delineation between their role and that of courts. However, it offers no guidance on how to coordinate the proceedings of commissions. Indeed, the Principle’s stipulations that commissions should possess quasi-judicial powers and the abilities to investigate all violations increases the likelihood of overlap in investigations and, therefore, the potential for operational tension. This chapter first provides a contextual and historical background on Principle 8 before discussing its theoretical framework and how the requirements of Principle 8 are reflected in modern practice. It highlights the practical difficulties associated with endowing commissions with wide mandates and truth-seeking powers, where there are also efforts to pursue criminal justice, by citing the experiences of South Africa, East Timor and Sierra Leone.

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