This study investigates perceptions of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), particularly focusing on understandings of, and the links between, truth, justice, and reconciliation. Forty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted at three research sites in Liberia. Findings indicate that although most Liberians agreed with the TRC in principle, most of those who followed its proceedings saw major problems in its implementation, harming perceptions of reconciliation. Participants expressed concerns that the Commission had failed to discover the full truth of wartime abuses, that the truth that was discovered was not told in the right way, and that there had been problems implementing justice. The data indicates that societies recovering from violence and suffering must think carefully about how to revisit their pasts. In order for a truth commission to have a positive impact, it must ensure that truth is told in a reconciliatory fashion, and that its justice-based strategy enjoys popular support.

Author Bio(s)

Gabriel Twose is a Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer at the American Psychological Association’s Public Interest Government Relations Office, where his portfolio includes human rights and socioeconomic status. He works with Members of Congress and their staff to provide psychology’s input into research priorities and federal policies, and coordinates support for legislation and issue positions. He is responsible for legislative analysis and reports, and relevant APA position papers, policy statements, briefing sheets and newsletter articles.

Prior to joining APA, Twose was the policy director at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), where he initiated SPSSI’s first congressional seminar series, legislative engagement days, and policy workshops. He has previously worked with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. House of Representatives and the International Center for Transitional Justice in Monrovia, Liberia.

Twose received his Ph.D. from Clark University, where he wrote his dissertation on the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Caitlin O. Mahoney received her B.A. in psychology from Siena College and her Ph.D. (Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology) from Clark University, with a concentration in societal peace and conflict. She is currently working as Assistant Professor of Psychology at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN, where she teaches classes in Research Methods, Group Dynamics, Positive Psychology & the Psychology of Peace, Conflict, and Violence. Mahoney has researched and written on emotions, responses to suffering, human security, and peaceful norms. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence (APA Div. 48), as Program Evaluator for the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), and as Program Director of Metropolitan State's Master of Arts in Psychology.


Truth commission, truth, justice, reconciliation, Liberia

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