A Professor at Wheaton College
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
Accountability is crucial to the moral health of a community; in other words, what you can't do is pretend or deny, so at the heart, for example in my book, it is to call forth that truth-telling is absolute. You need to disclose enough about the past so that you don't hide the past. And there are a number of ways that you can do this, and the truth commission is one of them. What's crucial, though, is not to empower some three people in the abstract, say some three international commissioners as was the case in El Salvador, or to have as in Peru some sort of a commission. If you're going to do it, what you're going to what to do is develop a shared discourse, and I think South Africa did it right. You have a law passed by the Parliament, and then it becomes a very open very open hearings The trials in Argentina were very open, the truth commission was a presidential appointed commission that did it secretly. There are some good things about the Argentinean truth commission, some good things about the Chilean truth commission, but the South Africans did it much better in the sense that it was an all-encompassing process, that when completed allowed the entire South African community to say, "Yeah, these things happened, partially, and in some cases maybe completely." And there is the second part of acknowledgement, some level of official acknowledgment that some of these things happened. I think in Chile, there was a very special moment after the truth commission report came out, when President Aylwin went on television and repented and apologized on behalf of the state for the crimes committed beforehand that had been made public by the truth commission. It was a very special moment symbolically, and he went to the national stadium, in a ceremonial way, which is where 40,000 people had been detained after the coup in '73. So I think these symbolic acts are really crucial to disclose truth, to acknowledge truth and then somehow, in a miraculous way, if you can move forward from that to make remembrance redemptive, the great challenge is to look back, do truth-telling and then to make that a redemptive, healing moment.