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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission

On April 29, 2009, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the key architects of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, launched a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for the Solomon Islands. In accordance with the TRC Act, passed by the Solomon Islands Government on August 28, 2008, it is a hybrid commission, presided over by three commissioners from the Solomon Islands and two international commissioners (currently one from Peru and one from Fiji). The mandate of the TRC is threefold: to investigate and report on human rights violations that took place during the Tensions; to provide ‘opportunities for affected parties... to tell their story’ through a range of mechanisms, and to recommend ‘policy options or measures that may prevent future repetition of similar events.’[1] To these ends, the planned activities of the TRC have included:

  • • fifty closed hearings and seven public hearings, five held in the regions and two in Honiara, one of which was a thematic hearing addressing issues faced by women and youth;
  • • attempting to take 5,000 statements about ‘Who did what to whom, when and where’ of which 50 percent must be provided by women;
  • • conducting and supervising ‘the exhumation of bodies... in agreement with the Director of Public Prosecutions’;
  • • carrying out ‘a mapping exercise of reconciliation activities that have already being [sic] implemented’;
  • • facilitating additional activities designed to ‘complement existing reconciliation activities’ including ‘apologies from all actors; the inclusion of traditional and religious ceremonies in the process; and the organization of social and recreational ceremonies’; and,
  • • holding twenty-eight regional and six national discussions on reconciliation between victims and perpetrators.[2]

However, the TRC not only represents the Solomon Islands’ most concerted effort to confront its violent past to date but an attempt to reconcile the seemingly incompatible approaches to transitional justice that had previously been pursued in the post-conflict context. It has attempted to do this in two inter-related ways: first, by overcoming the problem of silence associated with the criminal justice system, and; second, by pursuing truth and reconciliation but not at the expense of attributing accountability or responsibility to the perpetrators of serious crimes.

  • [1] ‘Mandate of the Commission’, Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at http://solomonislands-trc.com/about-us/mandate-of-the-commission.html(accessed May 2,2011).
  • [2] Solomon Islands Truth and Reconciliation Commission Activities, at http://www.solomonislands-trc.com/about-us/activities (accessed May 2, 2011).
 
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