Date of Completion

Spring 5-9-2010

Thesis Advisor(s)

Shareen Hertel

Honors Major

Political Science


Comparative Politics | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRC) have emerged in the last few decades as a mechanism for a state to overcome widespread, grave, human rights violations. There are numerous approaches to a TRC all with an ultimate goal: that formerly warring factions, perpetrators, witnesses, and victims can move forward as a united people. I propose that the provision of amnesty is critical to the success of a TRC. I hypothesize that the form of amnesty chosen (i.e. blanket v. conditional amnesty) determines the revelation of truth and realization of justice, which in turn dictates whether a TRC can achieve reconciliation. To test this hypothesis, I use two case studies: South Africa, which has utilized conditional amnesty, and Sierra Leone which has employed blanket amnesty.

I create a model for measuring reconciliation. I can then look at the implications of both types of amnesty and assess which, in the end, is more effective. My overarching conclusion is that the provision of conditional amnesty is more effective than blanket amnesty in achieving reconciliation. Ultimately, I hope that this conclusion can be generalized to other TRCs.