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Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador

UN Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, From Madness to Hope: The 12-Year War in El Salvador, Report, 15 March 1993, in UN Secretary General, Letter to the President of the Security Council (S/25500), Annex. (PDF link)


A. Institutions and Names

C. The Mandate


On the long road of the peace negotiations, the need to reach agreement on a Commission on the Truth arose from the Parties’ recognition that the communism which had encouraged one side had collapsed, and perhaps also from the disillusionment of the Power which had encouraged the other. It emerged as a link in the chain of reflection and agreement and was motivated, ultimately, by the impact of events on Salvadorian society, which now faced the urgent task of confronting the issue of the widespread, institutionalized impunity which had struck at its very heart: under the protection of State bodies but outside the law, repeated human rights violations had been committed by members of the armed forces; these same rights had also been violated by members of the guerrilla forces.

In response to this situation, the negotiators agreed that such repugnant acts should be referred to a Commission on the Truth, which was the name they agreed to give it from the outset. Unlike the Ad Hoc Commission, so named because there was no agreement on what to call the body created to purify the armed forces, the Commission on the Truth was so named because its very purpose and function were to seek, find and publicize the truth about the acts of violence committed by both sides during the war.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as the oath goes. The overall truth and the specific truth, the radiant but quiet truth. The whole and its parts, in other words, the bright light shone onto a surface to illuminate it and the parts of this same surface lit up case by case, regardless of the identity of the perpetrators, always in the search for lessons that would contribute to reconciliation and to abolishing such patterns of behaviour in the new society.

Learning the truth and strengthening and tempering the determination to find it out; putting an end to impunity and cover-up; settling political and social differences by means of agreement instead of violent action: these are the creative consequences of an analytical search for the truth.