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International instruments now defend a “right to the truth” for victims of political repression and violence and include truth telling about human rights violations as a kind of reparation as well as a form of redress. While truth telling about violations is obviously a condition of redress or repair for violations, it may not be clear how truth telling itself is a kind of reparations. By showing that concerted truth telling can satisfy four features of suitable reparations vehicles, I defend the idea that politically implemented modes of truth telling to, for, and by those who are victims of gross violation and injustice may with good reason be counted as a kind of reparations. Understanding the doubly symbolic character of reparations, however, makes clearer why truth telling is unlikely to be sufficient reparation for serious wrongs and is likely to be sensitive to the larger context of reparative activity and its social, political, and historical background.

Keywords: human rights; injustice; redress; reparations; truth commissions; victims; violence

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Arizona State University, School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, P.O. Box 874302, Tempe, AZ 85287-4302 USA, Email:

Publication date: July 1, 2010

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