Truth commissions are an international phenomenon that first developed in the last few decades of the twentieth century as nations attempted to deal with past histories of violence and oppression. Prior to this time, nations resorted to a kind of collective amnesia about past violence, but following World War II, a consensus arose in the international community that merely putting the past behind with no accounting was no longer acceptable. This impulse gave rise to the Nuremberg trials, in which perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity were tried by the international community.

Yet, as other nations began to emerge from periods of internal violence, often perpetrated by the government against its own citizens (the “dirty war” in Argentina, the Augusto Pinochet regime in ...

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