Retribution or Truth‐Telling in South Africa? Legacies of the Transitional Phase

Lynn Berat*, Yossi Shain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Almost from the start of South Africa's transition to democracy in the 1990s, the issue arose of how those both within the National Party government and from the opposition who had committed human rights abuses would be treated. Like many other countries undergoing democratic regime change, South Africa's endeavors to exorcise the demons of its past while ensuring stability have depended and continue to depend to a certain extent on the delicate choice between truth telling and retribution, a choice, in turn, closely tied to the process of democratization and to the distibution of power within the body that led the change. The authors ask how the nature of the South African transition and the character of the transitional authority affected the treatment of past abuses. They further examine the way the transitional authorities balanced retribution and truth telling and the consequences of their actions for the stability of the new democracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-189
Number of pages27
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995


Dive into the research topics of 'Retribution or Truth‐Telling in South Africa? Legacies of the Transitional Phase'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this