commission of inquiry 3

To get a sense of the All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice (APPCITARJ) it is best to understand what a truth commission is.

• Truth commissions are generally understood to be “bodies set up to investigate a past history of violations of human rights in a particular country -which can include violations by the military or other government forces or armed opposition forces.”[1] Priscilla B. Hayner, in Unspeakable Truths delineates four main characteristics of truth commissions:

1. First, they focus on the past and its impact. The events may have occurred in the recent past, but a truth commission is not an ongoing body akin to a human rights commission.

2. Second, truth commissions investigate a pattern of abuse over a set period of time rather than a specific event. In its mandate, the truth commission is given the parameters of its investigation both in terms of the time period covered as well as the type of human rights violations to be explored.

3. Third, a truth commission is a temporary body, usually operating over a period of six months to two years and completing its work by submitting a report. These parameters are established at the time of the commission’s formation, but often an extension can be obtained to wrap things up.

4. Fourth, truth commissions are officially sanctioned, authorized, or empowered by the state. This, in principle, allows the commission to have greater access to information, greater security, and increased assurance that its findings will be taken under serious consideration. Official sanction from the government is crucial because it represents an acknowledgment of past wrongs and a commitment to address the issues and move on. Furthermore, governments may be more likely to enact recommended reforms if they have established the commission.

Goals of Truth Commissions Include:

• Recording the past
• Identifying perpetrators
• Overcoming denial
• Restoring dignity to oppressed groups
• Promoting healing
• Educating about the past.
• Preventing future violence
• Forming the basis for a new pluriversal democratic order
• Promoting reconciliation
• Creating a collective memory.

There are many factors that will determine the composition and mandate of the APPCITRJ including how much we are able to bring pressure to bear on relevant decision-makers and institutions. There has already been some thinking, analysis, activism. research and consultation on what the purpose of the APPCITARJ should be although this is an evolving process, the APPCITARJ seeks to: acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of the imposition of Afrikan chattel, colonial and neocolonial enslavement within and beyond the British Empire; examine subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against Afrikans and people of Afrikan descent; examine the impact of these forces on living Afrikans and Afrikan descendant communities, as well as all other peoples; make recommendations to Parliament and similar bodies at local, national and international levels, including the European Parliament, and; determine appropriate methods of dissemination of findings to the public within and beyond Britain for consultation about proposals for redress, repairs and for other purposes.

On the Importance of Speaking our Grassroots Power of Truth to Establishment Power


The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim… he or she has become a threat.”

James Baldwin, ‘The Devil Finds Work’, 1976

In speaking, the so-called victim becomes an agent, and his/her narrative is especially threatening because it dares to expose violations and violence when others declare that such oppressions do not exist.

What next?

In partnership with the 1st August Emancipation Day Afrikan Reparations March Committee and other reparatory justice organising processes, we will continue to consult our communities and constituencies of the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR) on the following four themes:

1. Is the APPCITARJ necessary/important?
2. Aims, hopes and fears?
3. Powers and structure?
4. What are the other ways to deal with the legacies of the Maangamizi and enforce accountability?

[1] Priscilla B. Hayner, Unspeakable Truths. New York: Routlege, 2001, p. 14.


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