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The privilege against self-incrimination in truth commission administered accountability initiatives

Bisset, A. ORCID: (2017) The privilege against self-incrimination in truth commission administered accountability initiatives. Leiden Journal of International Law, 30 (1). pp. 155-176. ISSN 1478-9698

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0922156516000613


In recent times, transitional justice practice has increasingly seen truth commissions tasked with administering accountability programmes, distinct from and in addition to their traditional truth-seeking role. Such accountability schemes typically take the form of granting or recommending amnesty for those who disclose involvement in past crimes or facilitating reintegration on the basis of similar disclosures. Self-incriminating disclosures made in the course of traditional truth commission proceedings generally attract a robust set of legal safeguards. However, the protections within transitional accountability schemes administered by truth commissions tend to be less stringent. This article explores this anomaly, focusing particularly on the extent to which the privilege against self-incrimination is protected within truth commission administered accountability programmes. It considers the programmes operated to date, and the levels of protection afforded, and demonstrates a lack of consistent practice in the safeguarding of individual rights within these programmes. It examines international legal standards on the privilege against self-incrimination and questions whether the procedures operated by accountability programmes can be reconciled with international norms in order to protect those who make self-incriminating disclosures within accountability initiatives. The article argues that a failure to ensure individual rights against self-incrimination risks compromising the efficacy of the programmes themselves and the contribution that they can make to long term peace and reconciliation in transitional states.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Law
ID Code:66019
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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