This research project investigates the role that domestic Commissions of Inquiry and Truth Commissions have played and can play in securing the right to life in Africa. The protection of the right to life is understood under international law to have two components: firstly that States must take steps to prevent any arbitrary deprivations of life; and secondly that in all instances where such deprivations occur, the State must ensure accountability. These two components should be mutually reinforcing.
The research project asks the question what role these commissions play in securing the accountability for violations of the right to life in Africa. How should the term ‘accountability’ be understood, and what role do commissions – as opposed to or in addition to for example criminal prosecutions – play in securing accountability?
The primary focus of the research is on a selected number of commissions dealing with right to life issues that were operational over the last approximately twenty years in different African countries. On a secondary level, the role of these commissions is considered against the background of the role of international commissions – United Nations and Regional – with a similar focus in Africa and in other parts of the world.
As part of their collaboration on this research project, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) have produced a Policy Brief on the role that national commissions of inquiry can play as accountability mechanisms. Written by ICLA's Dr Thomas Probert, it is entitled 'Vehicles for accountability or cloaks of impunity?'