Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"We'll know the truth in 10 years"

"A truth commission also aims to affect the way the public understands its national history and the conflict or violence of recent years. It is thus important that the conclusions of the report are made widely available throughout the country." -- Rule of law tools for Post-Conflict States -- Truth Commissions, United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, page 31.
I know that the truth commission was forced on Honduras, and that no one in power there wants it, but we are left just scratching our head at the resultant truth commission that Honduras has come up with. Who does it serve, and to what purpose?

"We'll know the truth in ten years" was the headline in La Tribuna this morning. My jaw dropped; I did a double take, and then I laughed. I've read the UN manual on truth commissions; they literally wrote the book on them. Apparently no one at the State Department, which pushed for the truth commission in Honduras, or in Porfirio Lobo Sosa's government in Honduras, bothered to read the manual on what a truth commission is, or does, or why you have one, because this is a joke.

"We'll know the truth in ten years" according to La Tribuna, is a quote from Eduardo Stein, the Guatemalan to whom Porfirio Lobo Sosa subcontracted the organization and charter of the truth commission. La Tribuna tells us Stein says the final report of the truth commission will be deposited in the National Archives to be released to the public in 10 years.

Stein writes, "Collection of elements that help to clarify the facts are at all times the key to rebuilding and support these issues of national reconciliation" in the preamble of the charter of the truth commission; but what national reconciliation is being aided by hiding the truth for ten years, we are forced to ask? Is the whole exercise a farce? or is it that Honduras is not ready to have a truth commission? Stein assures us that the OAS is in favor of hiding the truth for 10 years.

Originally this commission was supposed to be formally organized on February 25, but that date slipped and next Stein announced it would be formally chartered on April 29, however, today he announced that "there is particular interest by some international organizations in participating," so the formal charter will be delayed again to give them time to be invited to participate.

"The impact of a final report may ultimately depend less on its content than on a variety of surrounding factors, including when and in what circumstances the report is released and publicized, how widely it is distributed, how much coverage it receives in the media, and, perhaps most importantly, how the political authorities treat the report and whether they have any interest in publicizing and implementing its conclusions and recommendations." Rule of law tools for Post-Conflict States -- Truth Commissions, page 31.
May I be the first to be wrong in predicting this report will have no impact, because the political authorities have no interest in knowing, publicizing, or implementing any of its future conclusions. Remind me again why they are going through this exercise? Oh, right, the State Department wanted it? Why again?


RNS said...

La Tribuna has now changed the title of the linked story to "The decree forming the truth commission is approved". The story however re-written, still mentions that the final report will be kept confidential for 10 years.

Though the story has been rewritten, it does contain additional information.
The commission will issue no intermediate reports on its activities. Stein clarifies that some confidential documents will be held by a third party for ten years before being released to Honduras. The OAS apparently refused to do this, so Stein will be asking the UN if they will.

My favorite comment on the La Tribuna story says "What? Do they think we're crazy? or stupid...."

Only one of the 11 comments so far is at all positive about this development. BTW, so for no other Honduran or international news source has picked up on this.

Anonymous said...

A Truth Commission minus any truth, or at least minus any dissemination of any truth so that victims and their families can feel some confidence that the perpetrators have been exposed and therefore less likely to repeat their deeds.

It's like freedom without anyone actually being free or elections without any opposition.