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In exchange for truth : the Polish lustration & the South African amnesty process
Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies
  • Roman DAVID, City University of Hong Kong
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Journal article
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Poland and South Africa have each inherited a similar legacy of human rights violations perpetrated by previous authoritarian regimes; they each underwent complicated political transitions and used similar methods of dealing with the remnants of their previous regimes. South Africa granted amnesty from criminal prosecution to perpetrators in exchange for truth about their involvement in the violations of the past. In Poland leading public posts were granted in accordance with the same principle of truth exchange. However, existing frameworks for the study of transitional justice do not allow for immediate comparison of the relative benefits and pitfalls of granting amnesty to criminals vis--vis measures to provide public sector employment. This paper extends the existing framework of transitional justice and applies it to the study of the major policy choices of the Polish lustration process (1999-2002) and the South African amnesty process (1996-2000). They encompass components such as the formal scope of truth, the choice of particular procedures, sanctions, transparency and impartiality. The comparison provides us with a more nuanced understanding of the institutional mechanisms that allow for the utilisation of the meaning of truth in complicated transitions from authoritarian regimes.

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David, R. (2006). In exchange for truth: The Polish lustration & the South African amnesty process. Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies, 32(1), 81-99. doi: 10.1080/02589340600618131