The Right to Truth

Organization logoby International Center for Transitional Justice, New York, 2013


What Is the Right to the Truth? Victims of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law, and their families, have the right to an effective remedy. Th is includes the right to know the truth about the abuses they have suffered, including the identity of perpetrators, the causes that gave rise to the violations, and, if appropriate, the ultimate fate or whereabouts of the forcibly disappeared.

Th is right has been recognized in legal decisions by courts in several countries as well as by international judicial bodies. While its core elements are well established, the right to the truth continues to evolve and may be characterized differently in various legal systems.

Aspects of the Right to the Truth

Th e right to the truth applies to serious violations of human rights, but is most explicitly recognized in regard to enforced disappearances. Certain aspects are increasingly accepted at the international level:

• It is linked to the right to a remedy, including the right to an effective investigation, verification of facts, and public disclosure of the truth; and the right to reparation.

• Victims and their families have the imprescriptible right to know the truth about the circumstances in which human rights violations took place.1

• It is connected to the right of relatives and communities to commemorate and mourn human loss in forms that are culturally appropriate and dignified.

• In addition to individual victims and their families, communities and society at large also have the right to know the truth about human rights violations.2

• Some legal systems consider the right to the truth to be integral to the enjoyment of freedom of information and freedom of expression.3

• Amnesty for perpetrators cannot be invoked to prevent the prosecution of certain international crimes, including crimes against humanity, genocide, and certain war crimes.4 As such, the prohibition against granting amnesty for such crimes relates to the right to truth insofar as it relates to verification of the facts in question.5

• The state has a duty to preserve documentary evidence for commemoration and remembrance, and protecting and ensuring adequate access to archives with information on violations.6

Entire book – Truth Seeking: Elements of Creating an Effective Truth Commission at

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