Born: 1934, Lubochna, Czechoslovakia
Describes the value of truth commissions [Interview: 2005]
In my view, the value of a truth commission is that it can establish a credible picture of the historical elements that contributed to the crimes that were committed. You simply cannot try people for 40,000 rapes, for example. But you can have a truth commission that can record that and have that accepted so that history is not continuously rewritten in the future by those who have an interest in changing the reality. So the truth commission to me is critical for the evolution -- peaceful evolution -- of a country that has gone through terrible things like El Salvador and Guatemala or South Africa have gone through. But of course it's at the same time important that there exist an international tribunal or some other method to bring at least the major criminals to justice, for the deterrent effect
Now an international judge, Thomas Buergenthal was one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 17. He has served as judge and president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and as a member of the United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador. Buergenthal was chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience. Buergenthal became a member of the International Court of Justice in March 2000, a seat he still occupies.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum