The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established in South Africa after the end of Apartheid to help the nation transition to a state of full democracy. It was also intended to uncover the truth about what happened in South Africa during the era, as the name implies, and to begin to heal the breach between black and white South Africans. Several other nations have used it as a model for commissions of their own after periods of war and violence.
The mandate for the commission was spelled out in the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, Number 34, in 1995. The act spelled out a need for a commission to hold hearings for both victims and perpetrators of Apartheid violence in South Africa in the hopes of helping the nation heal from the events of Apartheid. Many prominent South Africans, including Desmond Tutu, were appointed to the commission, which published a final report in 1998.
There were three committees on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The first concerned itself with human rights violations, hearing testimony from victims of such violations. The second dealt with reparation and rehabilitation, helping both sides rebuild their lives and mandating reparation payments where appropriate. The third committee had the power to grant amnesty to people who testified in full about their actions during Apartheid.
Although the commission was based in Cape Town, it traveled around South Africa for various public hearings, ensuring that everyone who wanted to speak would have a say. The TRC compiled extensive records as it heard testimony, which were incorporated in the eagerly anticipated final report. This report is still publicly available, for those who want to read through it, and a number of commentaries have been published as well.
Some people felt that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was not an effective way of dealing with the events of Apartheid because it focused on amnesty and reconciliation, rather than punishment for past crimes. Several notorious criminals received amnesty from the TRC through their testimony, and many black Africans felt that this was unfair. Others felt that the commission was a strong model for national rebuilding because of its focus, contrasting it with the Nuremberg trials, which were slanted towards punishment of wrongdoers rather than uncovering the truth of what happened.