The History of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions; Success and Failures; Lessons Learned

february, 2021

26feb11:00 am12:15 pmVirtual EventThe History of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions; Success and Failures; Lessons Learned


(Friday) 11:00 am - 12:15 pm

Event Video

Event Details

The events of January 6 on Capitol Hill precipitated an internal discussion within the Board and Program Committee of the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs about our need to include a segment of the conference that focuses on how to bridge the divide in the United States of America. We decided that the most positive way to do so is to focus on Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. Starting with US Congresswoman Barbara Lee describing her bill to create the first U.S. Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, Dorothy Davis will moderate the subsequent panel discussion of international experts entitled “The History of Truth and Reconciliation Commission; Success and Failures; Lessons Learned” on Friday, February 26, 2021 from 11:00 to 12:30 p.m. EST

The panelists are Ernst C. Stiefel Professor of Comparative Law Ruti Leitl of New York University Law School and author of “Transformational Justice”. She is an internationally recognized authority on international law, international human rights, transitional justice, and comparative constitutional law.

Professor Ronald Slye at Seattle University School of Law is an internationally-recognized expert in international criminal law, transitional justice and international human rights law. He has provided advice to countries in their efforts to address a legacy of gross violations of human rights. From 2009 to 2013, he served as one of three international commissioners on the Kenyan Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission. He’s the author of “The Kenyan TJRC:  An Outsider’s View From the Inside.”

Professor Marie Breen-Smyth. Visiting Professor in the University of Massachusetts in Boston where she is also Senior Faculty Fellow in the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development in the McCormack Graduate School at UMASS/Boston.  In Northern Ireland, she established the Institute for Conflict Research and led the first comprehensive research into the effects of the Troubles, The Cost of the Troubles Studies. Her most recent publications include “Victims and Survivors in the Northern Ireland Conflict in Terhoven.”

The moderator of the panel is Dorothy Davis, President of Dorothy M. Davis Consulting and Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Archives. A member of the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs Board of Directors and Program Committee, Ms. Davis brings extensive experience in global affairs with particular emphasis on Africa through her work with the United Nations, the African Union and the African American Institute.  During her tenure at AAI, she developed and managed the Africa America Institute’s 22nd through 27th major annual international Africa-America Policy Conferences held in Botswana, Ghana, Japan, Namibia, and the United States from 1991 to 1997.  These conferences included key figures of the international anti-apartheid movement era of South Africa.

To prepare for the discussion on Friday, we are offering the wonderful opportunity of screening the award winning film “Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa“, in its entirety to our registrants on Thursday, February 25, starting at 4:00 p.m. EST.


SOFT VENGEANCE is a film about Albie Sachs, a lawyer, writer, art lover and freedom fighter, set against the dramatic events leading to the overthrow of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Shining a spotlight on Albie’s story provides a prism through which to view the challenges faced by those unable to tolerate a society founded on principles of slavery and disempowerment of South Africa’s majority black population. As a young man, Albie defended those committed to ending apartheid in South Africa. For his actions as a lawyer, he was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Cape Town, tortured through sleep deprivation and forced into exile. In 1988 he was blown up by a car bomb set by the South African security forces in Maputo, Mozambique, which cost him his right arm and the sight of one eye, but miraculously he survived and after a long year of rehabilitation in England, he recovered.  Returning to South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela, Albie helped write the new Constitution and was then appointed as one of the first 11 judges to the new Constitutional Court, which for the past 20 years has been insuring that the rights of all South Africans are afforded protection.


To watch Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa go to:


To watch Truth to Power as part of the Pan African Film Festival (tickets on sale as of 2/25: Festival runs 2/28-3/14)

go to



Speakers for this event

  • Congress Woman Barbara Lee

    Congress Woman Barbara Lee

    Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a forceful and progressive voice in Congress, dedicated to social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights. First elected in 1998 to represent California’s 9th Congressional District, the Democratic lawmaker has a reputation for principled and independent stands, unafraid to take on the tough issues and speak her mind for her constituents, for a more just America, and for a safer world. A social worker by profession, she has been a life-long advocate for constituents, families and others accessing government services. Congresswoman Lee has been a strong proponent of safe communities, addressing hunger, environmental justice, universal health care, just immigration policies, the establishment of a living wage, reproductive health care rights and affordable housing, including creation of a National Housing Trust Fund. Her accomplishments include authoring or co-authoring every major piece of legislation dealing with global HIV/AIDS issues since she was elected to Congress. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the congresswoman was the lone vote against a resolution that gave the President virtually unlimited authority to use force against unspecified organizations, individuals or nations for an unlimited period of time. She has consistently fought to stop endless wars and to reduce conditions that produce conflict and injustice. Congresswoman Lee is the Co-Chair of the Steering & Policy Committee, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chair Emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, and Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. She also serves as Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. As member of the House Democratic Leadership, she is the highest-ranking African American woman in the U.S. Congress.

  • Dorothy Davis

    Dorothy Davis

    Dorothy M. Davis, an innovative and award-winning global thought leader, strategic thinker, business entrepreneur, writer, and filmmaker is President of Dorothy M. Davis Consulting, an international development communication consulting and project management firm that strategically and innovatively organizes complex issues into manageable and sustainable solutions.

  • Marie Breen-Smyth

    Marie Breen-Smyth

    Professor Marie Breen-Smyth is Visiting Professor in the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where she is also Senior Faculty Fellow in the Center for Peace, Democracy and Developmentin the McCormack Graduate School at UMASS Boston, and Research Affiliate at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, in the University of Otago, New Zealand and Professor Emerita and former Associate Dean in the University of Surrey, England. She has also taught at universities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Germany. She was 2002-3 Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow in the United States Institute of Peace. When in the Department of International Politics in Aberystwyth University, together with Richard and Jackson and Jeroen Gunning she founded the field of Critical Terrorism Studies and the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism. In Northern Ireland she established the Institute for Conflict Research and led the first comprehensive research into the effects of the Troubles, The Cost of the Troubles Studies. She also co-founded Derry Wellwoman, a free health centre for women. Her field work experience includes Northern Ireland, South Africa, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Ghana, Nigeria, Macedonia. She is a native of Northern Ireland. Her most recent publications include: ‘Victims and Survivors in the Northern Ireland Conflict’ in Terhoven, P (2018) Victimhood and Acknowledgement; the other side of terrorism. European History Yearbook; “The Securitized Western Imagination: the lone (white) wolf and suspect communities” in Martini, A., Ford, K. and Jackson, R. (2019) Encountering Extremism: A Critical Examination of Theoretical Issues and Local Challenges Manchester University Press and Interviewing combatants: Lessons from the Boston College Case in David Miller (ed) Contemporary Social Science Special Issue (forthcoming, 2019) 'A critical approach: violence, ‘victims’ and ‘innocents’' (with Samantha Cooke) in Kennedy-Pipe, C. Mabon, C and Clubb, G. (eds) ‘Terrorism and Political Violence: the Evolution of Contemporary Insecurity’. Sage (2015); ‘Everywhere and forever’ War on ‘Terrorism’ and the challenge for Transitional justice' Institute of Transitional Justice (forthcoming); The Ashgate Research Companion on Political Violence, (Ashgate 2013) and Terrorism; A critical introduction with Jackson, Gunning and Lee Jarvis (Palgrave, 2011). She has also made two films with Northern Visions about the impact of political violence, And then there was silence (2000) and Injured(2011). Her practitioner experience includes working as a community organizer in North Belfast during the conflict in Northern Ireland, as a licensed clinician in mental health in Massachusetts, USA, work in establishing the criminal justice inspection agency during the peace process in Northern Ireland and in integrating community restorative justice into the state system, and organising field missions and reports for the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations on Children and Armed Conflict on the issue of the recruitment of children into armed groups. She writes on political violence and terror, victim politics, casualty counting, veterans’ affairs and has regional interests in Northern Ireland, South Africa, West Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan.

  • Ronald C. Slye

    Ronald C. Slye

    Professor Slye teaches, writes, and consults in the areas of public international law, international criminal law, transitional justice, and international human rights law. Most recently, from August 2009 to August 2013 he was chosen by Kofi Annan to be one of three international Commissioners for the Kenyan Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. He is a legal advisor to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, a founding member of the Law and Peace Practice Group (the world's first dedicated advisory service on the challenge of balancing legal security and justice issues in relation to negotiated transitions out of war or authoritarianism). At Seattle University he previously served as Director of the Law School's International and Comparative Programs, the Center for Global Justice, and the Global Justice in South Africa summer program, which he helped to create. Before joining the faculty, Professor Slye was an assistant professor and Robert Cover Fellow in the clinical program at Yale Law School, where he taught an interdisciplinary transactional clinical course focusing on homelessness and housing, as well as immigration law and poverty law. He also served as associate director of Yale's Orville H. Schell, Jr., Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School and taught in Yale's international human rights law clinic. Professor Slye was a visiting professor at the Community Law Centre at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa from 1996-97 and, while there, served as legal consultant to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

  • Ruti Teitel

    Ruti Teitel

    An internationally recognized authority on international law, international human rights, transitional justice, and comparative constitutional law, Ruti Teitel is the Ernst C. Stiefel Professor of Comparative Law at New York Law School. She is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Affiliated Visiting Professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her path-breaking book, Transitional Justice (Oxford University Press, 2000), examines the 20th century transitions to democracy in many countries. Born in Argentina, Professor Teitel’s interest in the topic grew out of the dilemmas confronting that society in the transition out of junta rule. Her book explores the recurring question of how new regimes should respond to past repression, contending that the law can play a profound role in periods of radical change in advancing a new sense of legitimacy. In 2012, she published Humanity’s Law (OUP, 2012) setting out a paradigm shift in international affairs. Her latest book is Globalizing Transitional Justice (OUP 2014) which explores the last decade in the evolution of the field. Her extensive body of scholarly writing on comparative law, human rights, and constitutionalism is published in many law reviews, including “Does Humanity Law Require (or Imply) A Progressive Theory of History? (And Other Questions for Martti Koskenniemi)” (Howse Rob co-author), “Rethinking Jus Post Bellum in an Age of Global Transitional Justice: Engaging with Michael Walzer and Larry May,” “Beth Simmons’s Mobilizing for Human Rights: A ‘Beyond Compliance’ Perspective,” (co-authored with R. Howse), “Posner’s Missing Concept of Law," (coauthored with R. Howse), "Beyond Compliance: Rethinking Why International Law Really Matters," (coauthored with R. Howse), “The Law and Politics of Contemporary Transitional Justice” and “Humanity’s Law: Rule of Law for the New Global Politics,” both in the Cornell International Law Journal, as well as “Comparative Constitutionalism in a Global Age” in the Harvard Law Review. She has contributed dozens of book chapters to published volumes relating to law and politics, including “Transitional Justice and the Transformation of Constitutionalism,” in the Comparative Constitutional Law Handbook (ed. Rosalind Dixon and Tom Ginsburg, Edward Elgar 2011 ); “Global Justice, Poverty and the International Economic Order,” in The Philosophy of International Law (Samantha Besson and John Tasioulas, eds., Oxford University Press 2010) (coauthored with Rob Howse) ; “The Transitional Apology” in Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation (Stanford University Press, 2006), “Transitional Rule of Law” in Rethinking the Rule of Law After Communism (CEU Press, 2005), “Empire’s Law: Foreign Relations by Presidential Fiat,” in Sept. 11 In History: A Watershed Moment? (Duke University Press, 2003), and “Transitional Justice as Liberal Narrative” in Transnational Legal Processes: Globalisation and Power Disparities (Butterworths 2002). She also writes on human rights issues for a broader audience, having published in The New York Times, Legal Affairs, and Project Syndicate. She serves on the Board of Editors of Oxford’s International Journal of Transitional Justice, of the Journal, Humanity as well the Editorial Advisory Board of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law. A cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, Professor Teitel received her J.D. from Cornell Law School and has been a Senior Fellow at the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School. She has taught at Yale, Fordham and Tel Aviv Law Schools, as well as Columbia University’s Politics Dept and its School of International and Public Affairs. She is founding co-chair of the American Society of International Law's Interest Group on Transitional Justice and Rule of Law, a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the ILA International Human Rights Law Committee. Prof. Teitel is also on the Board of the London Review of International Law. Last year, she was a Straus Fellow-in-Residence at New York University Law School’s Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice (2012-2013).

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