Friday, February 29, 2008

History: Truth and Reconciliation

South Africa holds a certain hold on the minds of the world. Personally I have a mother who grew up under Apartheid, she may have been part of a privileged minority simply due to her skin colour, but the system still has impact today. For others especially in the South it provides a beacon of overturning oppressive systems.

The system of Apartheid in South Africa was abolished in 1994, but the affects on the people were not stripped from their psyche. It was known that a system needed to be put in place to deal with the cycle of violence that had plagued the people of South Africa. There had to be some recognition that it was the racist institution of Apartheid that had been the problem, not the people socialized under it. If any type of true unity and peace was to be established the sins of the past needed to be cleansed.

In 1995 an institution was created to deal with the aftermath of the violence committed under Apartheid, it was known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The idea was to bring justice for the crimes committed, but with the least harm possible. For the commission to work people from both sides the perpetrator and victims had to be present. If the crimes were politically motivated and, proportional and, the perpetrator gave full disclosure of everything that happened in presence of the victims they were given the chance of amnesty.

The people brought to trial included crimes from every side of the violence including the former Apartheid government and African National Congress members. Some say that the Commission didn't do enough, but is a profoundly different way of approaching crimes then the more European form of victor's justice. Ultimately it was an institution that should be remembered and improved upon to deal with future injustice.

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