A Critical Assessment of 40 Truth Commissions and the State of Transitional Justice

This Open Society Justice Initiative panel discusses Priscilla Hayner’s recently updated book, Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions (Routledge).

In a sweeping review of 40 truth commissions, Priscilla Hayner delivers a definitive exploration of the global experience in official truth-seeking after widespread atrocities. When Unspeakable Truths was first published by Routledge in 2001, it quickly became a classic, helping to define the field of truth commissions and the broader arena of transitional justice.

This second edition is fully updated and expanded, covering 20 new commissions formed in the last ten years, analyzing new trends, and offering detailed charts that assess the impact of truth commissions and provide comparative information not previously available. It is based on hundreds of interviews and a broad review of the literature.

Placing the increasing number of truth commissions within the broader expansion in transitional justice, Unspeakable Truths surveys key developments and new thinking in reparations, international justice, healing from trauma, and other areas. This book challenges many widely-held assumptions and will help define how these issues are addressed in the future.


  • Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Institute (moderator)
  • Priscilla Hayner, Author of Unspeakable Truths, a comparative study of truth commissions
  • David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice
Date: September 7, 2010
Time: 5:00 p.m.

OSI-New York

Priscilla Hayner, Aryeh Neier, and David Tolbert