Final Report
Our Work
Regional Offices
Agreements & Norms
Finantial Information
Balance TRC
Sessions with Institutions
International Seminar
Public Hearings
Disappeared persons
Photograph Project
Photo & Video Gallery
Press Releases
  Speeches in Public Hearings

Press Conference on the First TRC Public Hearings

Speech by TRC President

Journalist Ladies and Gentlemen,

Next Monday April 8th the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will start the public hearings program, a central element of our work plan mainly aimed, as we have already explained in several occasions, to pay attention and show respect to the victims of human rights abuses.

We have chosen the Department of Ayacucho as a stage to begin this cycle of hearings for easily understandable reasons. As we know, it is the area that was most affected by violence in the country in past decades.

Before starting these activities, we have considered it important to hold this meeting with the press. We will do the same with Ayacucho’s journalists next Saturday, to briefly explain the purpose and character these public hearings will have and also to ask you help us convey the message of respect to others’ grief and the invitation to solidarity we wish to convey to all Peruvian society.

Why Public Hearings?
This is the first time a Truth Commission or similar entity holds public hearings on human rights in Latin America. Neither Argentina or Chile, neither El Salvador or Guatemala, just to name some well-known cases, held sessions in which the victims or their families publicly exposed the facts of violence as they had suffered them and as they remember them. In our case, it will be done in this way. Commissioners will listen to these narratives, undoubtedly horrifying, and the whole of society will participate from these hearings through us.

We must point out that according to the decree that created the TRC, it is legally authorized, but not obliged to carry out these sessions. Hence, the commissioners have the power to organize them and carry them out. We have assumed this legal power is a true moral obligation that is shown in our work plan. The reason is very clear. We are convinced that our main duty is to pay attention to the victims and we understand that they have not only suffered physical aggression but also have been stripped off their dignity.

Many factors have come into this divestiture and one of them is the indifference society showed for decades to the victims’ suffering. Therefore, we understand that listening to them now, giving them the voice denied for so long, allowing them to publicly expose the actions they suffered is one way of giving them social acknowledgment and, thus, giving them back their dignity somehow. These hearings must be, then, understood in relation with the victims. They are a social acknowledgement act and they give them back their voice and dignity. This is how we want you to assume it.

Public hearings and the cases presented in them are not instruments for data to ponder a greater or lesser guilt of regimes or governments. They are not statistic data or tools for political discussion. They are radically human cases and each one of them must be understood as the absolute reality it is: a lost human life, a torn family, a destroyed community. We want you, communicators, to help us make our countrymen and countrywomen understand what we will present in through these public activities.

What is a Public Hearing?
Public hearings are solemn sessions in which commissioners directly receive the testimony of victims of violence or of their families or friends. These sessions are guided by a declaration of principles and will be subject to a protocol that shall highlight their formal character and permit them to follow this sequence: the hearings are not public debates, confrontations and, even less, trials. They are spaces for victims to provide public testimony.

This testimony is enormously important for complying our complex task. It shall permit us, on the one hand, to perfect the knowledge of facts to which the case in point is referred. On the other hand, the story of victims shall also be the door to understand the causes and factors underneath the violence lived through in the country. Thirdly, the hearings will provide us with elements to better understand the sequels of violence and to study the type of redress for damages we must propose and the national reconciliation perspective we must present to the country as part of our mandate. As you see, a public hearing comprises several aspects of TRC’s work. We mainly conceive it, though, as an element to give the victims back their dignity and, in this regard, as a healing and redressing activity.

To achieve this we need the activity to take place under a fundamental principle: respect for those who provide testimony. This is why we say it is a solemn session. We want to respect other people’s pain and, through us, the country to start expressing consideration to victims. It is essential to have the press accompany us. Otherwise, what is said would be limited to the room where the testimony is given and it would not be really public. At the same time, we need you help us preserve this ambience of solemnity and respect, to flee sensationalism and thoughtless invasion of the victims’ privacy. We have taken measures so that information flows to you accurately and on a timely basis. However, we also want you to assume that, in this opportunity, journalists themselves would be part of the message and the news. The treatment you give victims would be the first token of this humane and respectful treatment all the country must give to those who have suffered aggressions and who, generally, belong to the humblest segments of the Nation.

What is the Nature of Public Hearings?
We have explained several times that commissioners are not judges or prosecutors. We have no power to accuse, acquit or condemn. We comply with a work of moral cleansing, whose core is the public exposition of truth. This must be taken into account when public hearings are held. Commissioners shall listen to testimonies. They will be the ears of the Nation. The fact that these versions are presented in public hearings does not mean that we are passing judgment and making a decision in its regard.

I have mentioned already that what is essential for the TRC is to pay attention to victims. Thus, we make no distinction between victims. All those who died because of violence merit our consideration. TRC offers them impartial treatment to cases.

Naturally enough, not all cases can reach a public hearing. We must, therefore, select them. I must clarify that this selection is not guided at all by political criteria or by the will of demonstrating any thesis. The general criterion is to offer a faithful representation of what occurred in the country. This selection is made by coordinating with civil organizations of each zone.

In this case, we shall start with hearings of cases from victims, but these are not the only ones. We shall also have topical hearings to shed light on specific aspects of violence, hearings on regional history and hearings on institutional behaviors. In all these cases, our leading principle will always be impartiality and the will of publicly exposing the truth.

This search for truth approaches us to your task. We sincerely expect that by accompanying us in these public hearings you will also approach us, our purposes and our principles to share a task that can be transcendental to the country: showing that Peruvians can treat each other respectfully and thoughtfully and that despise, manipulation and use of the humble, which have had such an important role in past violence, are being overcome.


Salomón Lerner Febres
Truth and Reconciliation Commission