Sayra van den Berg

University of Edinburgh

Sayra van den Berg
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Perpetrator Participation in Truth Commissions: Uncovering Perpetrator Experiences in Post-Conflict Truth Commissions

My PhD examines the experiences of perpetrators in post-conflict truth commissions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Through an abductive and qualitative approach, it asks how do perpetrators experience truth commissions? – in order to uncover their expectations, experiences and participation in these commissions. My research seeks to explore and understand the relationship between perpetrators and truth commissions, and to construct the narrative of their experiences. Truth commissions are often regarded as “victim-centered”. Consequently, victimhood experiences dominate the scholarship, while perpetrators lack consideration. However, this research highlights the significance of their participation. It empirically establishes the formal need for truth commissions to engage with perpetrators, and the necessary role that they play in fulfilling truth commission aims. It uncovers their expectations and experiences and how this impacts their participation. This research joins an emerging field of transitional justice scholarship that examines variation in local attitudes towards, and experiences of, truth commissions. It contributes to the expansion of micro-level investigations of individual experiences and narratives. This research also challenges the problematic dichotomy of conflict experiences that transitional justice practice and scholarship has constructed and reinforced, that of victim- and “non-victim”-hood.