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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa: relation to psychiatric status and forgiveness among survivors of human rights abuses

  • Debra Kaminer (a1), Dan J. Stein (a1), Irene Mbanga (a1) and Nompumelelo Zungu-Dirwayi (a1)

Abstract

Background

The impact on individual survivors of human rights abuses of testifying before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has not been established.

Aims

To examine the degree to which participation in the TRC is related to current psychiatric status and forgiveness among survivors.

Method

Survivors (n=134) who gave public, closed or no testimony to the TRC completed instruments measuring exposure to human rights abuses, exposure to other traumatic events, current psychiatric status and forgiveness attitudes towards the perpetrator(s).

Results

There was no significant association between TRC participation and current psychiatric status or current forgiveness attitudes, and low forgiveness was associated with poorer psychiatric health.

Conclusions

Truth commissions should form part of, rather than be a substitute for, comprehensive therapeutic interventions for survivors of human rights abuses. Lack of forgiveness may be an important predictor of psychiatric risk in this population.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Debra Kaminer, Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa. Tel: 27 21 6503435; fax: 27 21 6897572; e-mail: dkam@psipsy.uck.ac.za

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

Funded by the Medical Research Council of South Africa and by a Harry and Doris Crossley Award.

Footnotes

References

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The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa: relation to psychiatric status and forgiveness among survivors of human rights abuses

  • Debra Kaminer (a1), Dan J. Stein (a1), Irene Mbanga (a1) and Nompumelelo Zungu-Dirwayi (a1)
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