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Unspeakable Truths - Confronting State Terror and Atrocity Paperback – 4 Jul 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1ST edition (4 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415924782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415924788
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 339,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Priscilla B. Hayner co-founded the International Center for Transitional Justice and served as program director and director of its Geneva office. She has advised truth commissions in well over a dozen countries, working with the United Nations, the Ford Foundation, and others, and has been featured in Newsweek, the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and Le Temps. She is currently writing on the subject of justice in peace negotiations.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a must for those who are studying peace and reconciliation.
If you are a student in that field, go buy it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable truths 22 Jun. 2008
By R. Hayner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is fascinating. This very important topic could have made for boring reading, but the author (who obviously knows the subject thoroughly and first hand) has made it quite interesting. This book will never be outdated, as it covers past events that bring to mind so many things that are going on today and, unfortunately, will be tomorrow as well. (I wonder when a truth commission will be set up for Iraq.) Authoritative yet simply worded, the book is for anyone and everyone who cares anything about the world outside the box.
5.0 out of 5 stars The best research on the subject! 27 Aug. 2013
By R. Romero - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Priscilla did a magnificent and fascinating job in this book. It contains plenty of cases and suggests why few succeed and many fail.
A must have for people working on transitional justice/truth/reconciliation/peace.
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Margins of Truth 10 July 2001
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Priscilla Hayner is, very likely, the world's most expert writer on 'truth commissions'. This book is a follow-up on the article '15 Truth Commissions', published in the Human Rights Quarterly, which was the first systematic review of the issue up to the mid-1990s. This book deals with dozens of examples up to 1999. Hayner describes how truth commissions are being established.How they operate under very different mandates, e.g. on presidential order, by parliamentary decision, under U.N. auspices, or as a judicial commission of enquiry. How some commissions deal with a large pattern of abuses, such as in Soutth Africa, and others have been concerned with selected violations only, such as the 'disappearances' which were the subject matter of the Argentine commission. How these commissions report, or do not report, on their findings. How commissions are concerned with, or show less than the necessary concern for, the victims. Much of Hayners observations are based on interviews with those directly involved in these commissions. The book has a couple of very useful appendices, where one can compare the mandate, membership, dates, operations, findings, and other characteristics. A few points of criticism are due too. Hayner's book may be the first of its scope, but it is not really, contrary to what is said in the Introduction, the first on the subject. A more serious point is that Hayner deals with these commissions rather as a standard concept. In fact, the commissions have shown wide divergencies and quite a few, if not the majority, may after all be considered less than an outright success. Hayner's optimism about future commissions may be somewhat misleading. It seems at present not at all sure that there is a sound future for truth commissions, the more so as the issue of national and international trials for those responsible has gained prominence in recent years.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The" Reference, Applies to 9-11 and USA Truth Commissions 26 Dec. 2005
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The publisher has been lazy and inconsiderate in failing to post adequate information about this superb book. It is without question the single most important reference, covering the theory, the history, the practice, and future of truth commissions. It is comprehensive, clear, easy to read, and superbly documented.

This book has special meaning for me, at the #1 Amazon reviewer for non-fiction about global issues and national security and prosperity issues, because on the basis of real-life experience and reinforced by the 600+ books I have reviewed in just the past four years, I have become convinced that the US public must demand two Truth & Reconciliation Commissions if we are to reach the next century in any kind of good order: one must focus on the ills that America has bestowed on the world through its Cold War years (see Derek Leebaert, The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World as well as--among many others--Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project), its support of 44+ dictators world-wide (see Ambassador Mark Palmer's Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025), and our predatory immoral capitalism (Cf. Perkins Confessions of an Economic Hit Man' Greider The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy and Prestowitz, Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions.

EDIT of 11 Dec 07: There are *so* many other books I have reviewed that could be listed here. The sad thing is that in 8 years Bush-Cheney, with the total abdication of Congress and the media, have led an apathetic nation into ruin.

We also need an internal Truth & Reconciliation Commission that could usefully start with the treasonous, treacherous, immoral, and disgraceful failure of local, state, and federal government in the preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina, and go backwards from there to explore not only our abuse of minorities, but our abuse of the working poor (see Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America David Shipler, The Working Poor: Invisible in America and then go from there to the pernicious deliberate looting of the Commonwealth by a combination of military-industrial, pharmaceutical, and energy special interests; corrupt Congressmen, and a Wall Street that thrives on laundering drug money and picking the pockets of the middle class (Cf . Michael Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil)

Most interesting to me, although not mentioned in this book, if one Goggles for truth and reconciliation USA one discoveres the Greensboro North Carolina Truth and Reconciliation endeavor, to explore past human rights abuses through slavery and related themes. This is a proven process that is clearly relevant to all countries, and especially to the 900-lb gorilla called America. The growing gap between rich and poor is the moral equivalent of global genocide and ecocide. If the rich wish to see their future generations survive, they had better start thinking about this important alternative to popular justice.

It is in this very American context that we can conclude that not only is this book at least as important to every American as it is to the rest of the world, but that the 9-11 Commission was a cover-up, a farce, that failed to engage the people, failed to discover all that could be known, and failed to hold anyone accountable.

I am most impressed by the diligence, scope, and coherence of this book. This is an extraordinary examination, based on global travel, deep research, and penetrating personal insight that is graceful and low-key, into the role of truth commissions, the great difficulties that accompany the creation and maintenance of such commissions, and the long-term implications of a successful outcome.

On page 23, after discussing the new emerging field of "transitional justice" the author declares that it "is certain that more countries will be turning to official truth-seeking in the coming years." As we review books like Jonathan Schell's The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People and Why They Hate Us: September 11, 2001...and Justice For Non and many others, two things are clear: 1) the dictators are not long for this world--I give them twelve years at the most; and 2) it is not just "dictatorships" that need commissions, but also those democracies that are fraudulent, among which I would include the United States of America (see my review of Jimmy Carter's new book, and the books recommended there, including Peter Peterson's Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It).

The author is to be commended for blending a reference work that concisely and clearly covers the 21 existing truth commissions at the time of the first writing as well as the 12 emergent between the hard copy and the new soft copy, and that brings out the reasons, the lessons, the benefits, and the costs. The most important benefit is mentioned on page 135, in which the author discusses the importance of honoring the past and overcoming what some call the conspiracy of silence. I would refer readers to Robert Parry's Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' as well as Larry Beinhart, Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin, and of course the recent classic, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq. The list goes on.

The book has a practical side as well, identifying key factors in whether a truth commission will succeed or fail, chief among which is whether they get an adequate staff and budget, and whether there is a good process of engaging the public in defining the goals and the process.

The appendices and the index are quite professional, and overall this is a world-class reference work of enormous value to the possibilities of using transitional justice to achieve sustainable peace around the world.
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