2nd Edition

Unspeakable Truths Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions

By Priscilla B. Hayner Copyright 2011
    376 Pages
    by Routledge

    396 Pages
    by Routledge

    In a sweeping review of forty truth commissions, Priscilla Hayner delivers a definitive exploration of the global experience in official truth-seeking after widespread atrocities. When Unspeakable Truths was first published in 2001, it quickly became a classic, helping to define the field of truth commissions and the broader arena of transitional justice. This second edition is fully updated and expanded, covering twenty new commissions formed in the last ten years, analyzing new trends, and offering detailed charts that assess the impact of truth commissions and provide comparative information not previously available.

    Placing the increasing number of truth commissions within the broader expansion in transitional justice, Unspeakable Truths surveys key developments and new thinking in reparations, international justice, healing from trauma, and other areas. The book challenges many widely-held assumptions, based on hundreds of interviews and a sweeping review of the literature. This book will help to define how these issues are addressed in the future.

    1. Introduction 2. Confronting Past Crimes: Transitional Justice and the Phenomenon of Truth Commissions 3. Why a Truth Commission? 4. The Five Strongest Truth Commissions 5. Other Illustrative Truth Commissions 6. What is the Truth? 7. The Truth About Women and Men 8. Truth and Justice: A Careful but Critical Relationship 9. Truth Commissions and the International Criminal Court 10. Naming Names of Perpetrators 11. Healing from the Past 12. Truth and Reparations 13. Reconciliation and Reforms 14. Leaving the Past Alone 15. When, How, and Who: Basic Questions of Methodology and Operations 16. Reflections: Looking Forward


    Priscilla B. Hayner was a co-founder of the International Center for Transitional Justice and served as program director and director of its Geneva office. She has assisted truth commissions in well over a dozen countries, working with the United Nations, the Ford Foundation and others, and has been featured in Newsweek, the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and Le Temps. She is currently writing on the subject of justice in peace negotiations.

    "In 2001 Priscilla Hayner gave the world the first comprehensive scholarly work on truth commissions to address legacies of impunity. Ten years later, she offers a dramatically updated new edition, a refined, measured and yet often stirring account of state efforts to address the past, with rich new case evidence collected through her travels and policy consultation in over a dozen countries."
    Kathryn Sikkink, University of Minnesota

    "During the last ten years we have witnessed an expansion of the accountability of past abusers from dictatorial regimes thanks to old and new truth commissions. The capacity of Priscilla Hayner is remarkable, in the face of such painful and dramatic processes, to be able to reconstitute the immense diversity and complexity of this search for healing in all regions of the world. This new edition of Unspeakable Truths is the most complete chart available to navigate the fascinating struggles for truth and justice in the twenty-first century."
    Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Commissioner, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; Former Secretary of State for Human Rights, Brazil

    "Unspeakable Truths is an important addition to the literature presenting truth commissions as instruments for transitional justice in post-conflict societies. Hayner’s excellent political and social analysis will enrich the debate on justice and peace. This book not only provides a wealth of information, but is intellectually inspiring for all those engaged with issues of transitional justice, both in local contexts and at the international level."
    Hina Jilani, Founder, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

    "This extensive updating of Hayner's pathbreaking 2001 book again breaks new ground on the contribution of truth commissions to peace and justice in societies emerging from war or dictatorship. The panoramic view of existing and past commissions is balanced by attention to stories and details; the writing is lively and fresh. Her new chapters on gender and on the relationship between justice and truth commissions are superb. Hayner's depth of knowledge of the contributions as well as the dilemmas and limits of truth commissions make her one of the key writers and thinkers in the field."
    Naomi Roht-Arriaza, University of California, Hastings College of the Law

    "Unspeakable Truths provides an outstanding guide for any truth-seeking project that would want to benefit from the international experience in the field. It combines a well informed comparative analysis with an insightful discussion of the wide variety of truth commissions that have existed so far. Its presentation of the Peruvian truth commission, in particular, gives a very accurate picture of the work done and the problems that we dealt with while building memory in Peru."
    Salomón Lerner Febres, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú; former President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Peru

    "Hayner says it all, and more. The relationship between truth commissions and international courts, the tension between truth and justice and between truth and reparations are tackled in an easy to grasp yet highly informative manner. The book harbours a wealth of information. . . . An absolute must read."
    Philip Grant, Trial